Mama and Daddy and the Halcyon Days of Youth Sunday, Nov 18 2018 

Halcyon is an interesting adjective not many people use.  I checked its definition: “denoting a period of time in the past that was idylically happy and peaceful.”

What does a picture of halcyon days of youth look like?  I would nominate this one of Mama and Daddy, very soon after being married.  They always took nice pictures throughout the 60+ years they were together, but this one has a sassy, flirtatious aspect IMG_0185that I’ve never seen in later photos.  It’s truly idyllic!

I suppose children aren’t privvy to this season of their parents’ relationship because that season, years before the beginning of our seasons with them, properly belongs to the newlywed couple, so idylically young and exuding the charm and passion of youth.  In a true sense, we never knew the two people in this photo, which perhaps explains why we’re hesitant, maybe even uneasy, to think of them as the Mama and Daddy that raised us.  Why, these youngsters are practically strangers!

I wonder if our kids look at our newlywed photos in the same way.  From our perspective, we remember our newlywed days as an idyllic season when romance flourished in its full and  passionate season.  Those were the halcyon days of our youth!

And such are the circles and cycles of life, abounding and repeating from generation to generation.

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Country Roads, Louisiana: The Parsonage Monday, Nov 12 2018 

New Zion parsonageI’m happy one of my sisters shared this photo of our childhood home, the New Zion Baptist Church parsonage north of Covington in St. Tammany Parish.  The photo is especially significant because the house is has been gone for over forty years as the physical development of the several acres of church property evolved through the generations.

This was the first family home place that I remember.  Details I recall include the yard all around the house where we played games like cowboys and Indians, outfitted with cowboy hats and gunbelts holstering toy pistols loaded with those rolled red percussion caps that fired at the ratio of one out of four.  On the far side of the house, visible just beyond the far right of the picture, is the pasture where Daddy’s milk cow Daisy grazed. I remember Daddy walking that back and forth across the two or three acres of that pasture cranking a manual seed-spreader, sowing rye grass  so Daisy would have green forage throughout the winter.

The farthest two windows on the right were my sisters’ bedroom; the windows under and just to the left of the porch were for the living room; the pair of windows farthest to the left were for an add-on dining room that Daddy built to enlarge the house.  The house had a formal dining room, but the family dined in that added space on the day-to-day basis.  It’s funny how I remember random details from meal times, like Daddy plopping a dollop of mayonnaise in the midst of his navy beans beans and rice and then stirring it all together.  As a six-year old, I thought that was  funny.  Why?  Can’t recall.

I’m glad I have this photo and had the presence of thought to post it here as a commemoration to childood memories.  As I study the picture, I realize how many memories it evokes, memories that would likely  go un-evoked without the visual stimulus.

I am reminded also that this blog  provides a sacred repository of family lore and memories, a repository that actualizes  people, places, and experiences from the past, lest we  forget.

Rocky Mountain Fever Wednesday, Nov 7 2018 

Off and on over the years, I’ve posted exemplary pieces I composed for classes.  I dashed out this piece last week for my English 1001 students as they practiced the mode of cause and effect.   No need for it to go to waste.  I publish it here for its preservation.

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Hiking the Deer Mountain trail, one of our golden memories from the last Rocky Mountain trip.

My wife and I returned Wednesday from a mid-autumn get-away to Colorado to spend time with our daughter and son-in-law. We spent four “daze” hiking mountain trails, picnicking beside mountain streams, and breathing mountain air, chilled on the last day by an all-day snow that gently fell to transform the mountains into a dazzling wonderland.

Today, the day after our trip, even though I’m home and happy to be reunited with my dogs, I still feel a haunting wanderlust in the aftermath of our trip. I realize that I have Rocky Mountain fever! Rocky Mountain fever, which is a mysterious malady of the soul brought on by exposure to the grandeur of nature in the Colorado Rockies, affects my wife and me in the following ways: (1) We languish for days after our trip on magical memories; (2) our senses tease us with recalled sensations of the mountains; and, most of all, (3) we can’t wait to plan a return trip.

The first effect of Rocky Mountain fever is the lonesome sensation that lingers for days after returning home. On the two and a half hour flight home, I opened my laptop and browsed over and over through pictures we had taken. Each picture evoked rich memories: our family selfie on the Alpine heights of Trail Ridge Road at Rainbow Curve; the elk that hung out, grazing and milling about around our condo in the snow on our last day; the snow man Sarah and the kids (these are grown “kids”) created in the back yard; the rugged, back-country trail that we followed for over six miles on our trek across the heights of Deer Mountain, and so many others. I pored over those pictures and the dozens of others that my wife posted on her Facebook album, haunted by the memory. Yes, an unmistakable symptom of Rocky Mountain fever is the spell of magic that lingers long and dwells deeply within the lonesome memory!

The second notable effect of Rocky Mountain fever is the mysterious sensory recall of mountain sensations. A good example occurred the afternoon we got back home. Sarah and I were sitting on the patio rewinding from the long day of travel. The air was
Louisiana-fresh, typical of late October along the Gulf Coast. But Sarah remarked, “You know, there’s something about the mountain air that’s different from home.” I immediately agreed, remarking, “That’s true. The mountain air has a levity about it, a lightness and freshness that’s totally unlike our relatively heavy Gulf Coast air.” In that moment within my senses, that mountain freshness became as real as it had been that morning in Colorado. How uncanny that the senses, exposed to the rich sensory environment of the Rockies, have this power to captivate the imagination so realistically!

Finally, and in my view the most inescapable effect of Rocky Mountain fever, is the determined resolve to return to the mountains. As this trip marks our fifth Colorado visit since 2000, more visits than any other vacation venue our family has visited, we know this final effect all too well! It draws us back time after time. I remarked to the kids last week as we drove through the stunning scenery of the Trail Ridge Road, “You know, I can’t imagine ever seeing this scenery so often that I’d ever take it for granted. It’s just that breath-taking!” And so we’ve returned, again and again over the years, because of the magical attraction of these rugged, enchanted, awe-inspiring scenes. As we posted the pix on Facebook the day after our return, a family member who loves to travel and organize family excursions commented on the beauty of the scenery. I responded, “We gotta go. Allons!” (Allons is French for Let’s go). She promptly agreed, and I’m fairly sure the wheels are turning in her mind for planning the next extended-family excursion. Yes, Rocky Mountains, we will return—We’ve got the fever!

In the final analysis of the causes and effects of Rocky Mountain fever, we recognize that this is a disease that we cannot cure. We are mightily and helplessly afflicted. But then we wonder, why cure Rocky Mountain fever? It causes no pain and produces no ill physical effects. In fact, it’s a balm for the soul! And it is certainly treatable: Plan another visit to the mountains! That’s a palatable medication, a pill I definitely can swallow.

The Elk in the Window Friday, Nov 2 2018 

IMG_20181030_172849This big boy milled around the condo near Estes Park all day long last Tuesday.  But this view from the living room picture window was the most astonishing: Had we been on the patio just outside the back door at this moment, we could have swatted him on his backside as he walked by.  Not that I’d swat an elk on the behind–I’d rather not piss him off!  But just to imagine how comfortable these wild creatures are in the midst of civilization!  That same snowy day in the yard, we received visits from a coyote and a wild turkey.

The Assault on Deer Mountain Monday, Oct 29 2018 

In August, Sarah and I assaulted Vesuvius, the Italian volcano of lore that presides over the magnficent Bay of Naples.

Today, Sarah, Ann, and I assaulted Deer Mountain in the spectacular Alpine heights of

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Deer Mountain affords stunning views of the Colorado Rockies.

the Colorado Rockies.  Our 6.17 round trip hike afforded stunning views of creation.

When we hiked Vesuvius, my Garmin registered the equivalent of 44 flights of stairs for the steep ascent; Deer Mountain today smashed that record, registering the equivalent of 65 flights of stairs!

In fairness, the torturous Vesuvius trail of ascent was only 1.1 miles; On Deer Mountain, we hiked uphill for almost 3 miles.  Also, Vesuivius’s altitude is around 6000 feet above sea level, compared to Deer Mountain’s 10,000+ feet above sea level.

No matter, we’re proud that at retirement age, we can still muster the stamina for assaults on mountains.  And we’re grateful for the blessing of exotic memories with families and loved ones.

 

Marley’s Blissful Ignorance Wednesday, Oct 24 2018 

marley readsWho knows?  Marley watches us read, so he figures he’ll give it a try?  No one ever taught him the alphabet or  phonics.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t look at all discouraged.  As long as he doesn’t know that he can’t read, he probably thinks he can.  How would he know the difference between comprehending written symbols and just staring at the figures, shapes and colors on the page?

Ignorance is truly bliss!

We won’t tell him any different.  It’s probably best that he can’t read, in fact, because then he might read the section on “Dog by Breed” and discover that he totally lacks any kind of pedigree.

He’s just a happy, illiterate mutt who doesn’t know he’s illiterate nor that he’s a mutt.

But he’s happy!

The Deception of a Generation: Un-Lucky Strike? Saturday, Oct 20 2018 

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LS/MFT: Lucky Strike means fatal tumors.

Watching vintage episodes of the Jack Benny Show this past week reminded me how much tobacco culture has changed in my lifetime.  Cigarette advertisements on these shows, dating to the early 1950s (when I was born), were so brazen in their promotion of smoking not as an addictive habit, but as a sexy lifestyle marked by  vitality and success.

Some of the commercials were cartoons, others were live spots.  One that I saw last night really made me chuckle.  An attractive couple clad in swimsuits just hopped out of the pool, dripping wet from their swim; each lit up a Lucky Strike.  The announcer exclaimed, “Nothing goes better after an invigorating swim than a Lucky Strike break!”  The couple smiled and laughed flirtatiously, inhaling and releasing wispy puffs of tobacco smoke in one another’s face.

Wow!  Associating smoking tobacco with health and fitness? How misled was that generation!

Each commercial ended with the Lucky Strike slogan, stamped on the underside of the Lucky Strike package: (LS/MFT–“Lucky Strike means fine tobacco”).  Translated into reality,  that acronym more accurately  suggested, “Lucky Strike / means fatal tumors.”

We’re blessed to be more enlightened (at least to the truth of tobacco addiction) in our generation.

 

 

 

Unwired Monday, Oct 15 2018 

Liberation: We are unwired inside and will soon be unwired outside. Can’t believe all that ugly, wirey junk on the left gobbled both space and electricity with the devices’ blinking LED lights and luminescent digital imagery.

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The photo right (where much of that junk to the left once resided) shows the much neater “after” effect.

Next, those hideous cables strung and wrapped around the exterior house will come down.

And we’re not missing a thing on TV, plus we’re not paying half as much as we paid for the “junk!”

Farewell, DirecTV!

Country Roads, Acadiana: Country Comes to Town (or vice versa?) Thursday, Oct 11 2018 

Rustic pastoral scenes are common throughout rural Acadiana.  But this picturesque barnIMG_2799 and pasture with grazing cow sits at the southwestern corner of Landry Road and Le Violon Road, inside the city limits of Lafayette.  What’s country doing in town?  Lafayette is not a metropolis, by any estimation, but it is a thriving  city and university town with a palpable urban flair.

Rural scenes like this are evident around the edges of the city because these city edges have expanded farther and farther into the surrounding countryside as the city has grown over the years.   Thirty years ago, this scene really was truly remote from town.

I am happy that some of these country views have been preserved against the urban sprawl.  In my country-reared view, a homey patch of country looks good anywhere, but especially  in the city where its scenery contrasts colorfully to the bland urban landscape.

In Memoriam of Mr. Harold Loewer, One of a Kind! Saturday, Oct 6 2018 

We bid farewell at a memorial service today to Mr. Harold Loewer, an iconic figure and senior statesman in our church. The service was lovely and tasteful, directed

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Mr. Harold Loewer

principally by Mr. Harold’s gifted family, who shared a myriad of colorful anecdotes recalling and celebrating a life lived fully and devoted to his faith in God. He was a unique character, colorful and fascinating in so many respects, and we’re sad at his loss.

My favorite Mr. Harold story occurred seven or eight years ago when I got the bright idea that I would show off my German speaking skills. Mr. Harold’s first language was German, so I wanted to impress him with the small German vocabulary I had acquired (I do not speak German, by the way. French, yes; Spanish, a little; German, definitely not!). I had learned how to say, “That’s a big fat cow”—Das ist ein grosse fette kuh.”

After church one Sunday, accompanied by my wife, I ran into Mr. Harold near the front of the sanctuary. I summoned my nerve, cleared my throat, and in my best German, greeted him: “Herr Harold,” I began. When I saw I had his attention, I pointed at my lovely wife Sarah and pronounced in the best German accent I could muster, “Das ist ein grosse fette kuh.”

I hoped for some appreciative affirmation of my linguistic daring-do, but not a smile crossed Mr. Harold’s lips. Instead, he frowned. Then he delivered his reply to me in German, and with a stern tone of reprimand: “Das ist nicht ein grosse fette kuh!” (“That is not a big fat cow!”). And then he switched to English with a brief lecture on how I should not refer disrespectfully to my wife (who, by the way, is a charming beauty who bears no resemblance whatsoever to a big fat cow!”)

I was plainly chagrined. My effort to impress Mr. Harold with my linguistic prowess had blown up in my face!

After I processed the incident, I realized that Mr. Harold had shown me an old-school code of honor and dignity that I failed to appreciate in his nature. Even though my intent toward my beloved wife was good natured and humorous, he took offense, because he came from a generation and a cultural tradition that drew a line of decorum that I had crossed.

I never felt persecuted or chastised by Mr. Harold after that episode. In fact, he never recalled it to me thereafter, and we ever enjoyed the most pleasant associations in the years that ensued. But that incident will endure fondly in my recollection of this amazing character. May God bless Mr. Harold’s memory—He was one of a kind!

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