Thursday, July 2, 2015

ANATOMY OF A SUMMER STORM


Anvil Storm Cloud, Flint Hills, KS
Rain Storm, Jamestown, NC
Storm Pines, Jamestown, NC
Mare's Tails, Jamestown, NC


Quickening south winds,
stir Thunder Being Nation,
and begin to sail.

Vapor droplets join,
rise on warming air currents,
and gain momentum.

Sky sculptures are formed,
spontaneously expand,
and block out the sun.

Fire spears strike the earth,
war drums shatter the silence,
and sheets of rain fall.

Leading gusty winds,
uproot trees with abandon,
and snap them in half.

Double rainbows glow,
gurgling stream voices respond,
and chant Hey-A-Hey.

Tender shoots of grass,
turn their faces to the sun,
and mare’s tails glide by.

http://soundbible.com/2090-Night-Time-Storm.html

HAIKU STORM


Summer Storm, Jamestown, NC

Quickening south winds,
stir Thunder Being Nation,
and begin to sail.

Vapor droplets join,
rise on warming air currents,
and gain momentum.

Sky sculptures are formed,
spontaneously expand,
and block out the sun.

Fire spears strike the earth,
war drums shatter the silence,
and sheets of rain fall.

Double rainbows glow,
gurgling stream voices respond,
and chant Hey-A-Hey.

Tender shoots of grass,
turn their faces to the sun,
and the sky shines blue.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

GUARDIANS OF ROYALTY



Royal Crown, Jericho, Israel
Royal Train, Jericho, Israel


Peacocks are only native to Asia in countries like India and Indochina and also the African Congo basin. It’s no surprise that they’re birds of the colorful pheasant family. The iridescent feathers and large “train” of peacocks along with their eerie piercing call have caught the attention and imagination of mankind for eons. The peacock was seen as a guardian to royalty and engravings can be found on their thrones. The monarchy of Iran is referred to as the Peacock throne.

The peacock is first mentioned in the Bible when Solomon, the wisest and richest king that ever lived, sent his ships abroad to return every three years “bringing gold, and silver, and ivory, and apes, and peacocks”. No doubt peacocks walked the elaborate gardens of ancient kings and became associated with paradise. Because ancient Greek legend believed that the flesh of a peacock never decays after death it became a symbol of immortality. Therefore, it is often depicted next to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden for Christians. Mankind also began to observe that the peacock sheds its old feathers every year and grows more brilliant ones to replace them—a beautiful sign of renewal. Paintings and mosaics of peacocks on the walls of third century Rome catacombs became early Christian symbols for resurrection, renewal and immortality. And the multiple blueberry eyes of the peacock’s train has been associated with an all-seeing God. Regardless of the associations, a male peacock definitely knows how to attract a female peahen!

Our recent pilgrimage to Israel included exploring archeological digs at Jericho, reputed to be the oldest occupied city in the world. The area has been the site of copious springs which has attracted civilizations to rebuild up to twenty settlements mounded on top of one another. One of these sites enabled us to visually exam this phenomenon of the rise of mankind back some 11,000 years to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch of Earth’s history. It was here at Jericho that Jesus healed a blind man and related the parable of the Good Samaritan on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was here that the Bible records the only time that Jesus invited himself to someone’s home for dinner—the home of little Zacchaeus the tax collector who was hated by both Jews and Gentiles.

We enjoyed a local luncheon at a location that also included a rather large retail area selling a variety of products sure to attract tourists such as olive wood carvings, brightly colored scarves, and a large inventory of Dead Sea mineral beauty products. I bought a unique olive wood carving and ambled outside with my ever-present camera to browse for a photo op. As I walked around the building I was greeted with the eerie call of a brilliant peacock strolling the grounds like royalty. If you had given me a hundred guesses about what I would encounter that day, I would have never thought of a peacock! But here we were in the cradle of civilization following the footsteps of Jesus, ancient kings and legions of ancestors on the sandy paths of long ago created star dust. And here I was confronted by one of history’s most revered symbols of that royalty.

LINK TO PEACOCK CALL:
http://soundbible.com/1301-Peacock-Call.html

Sunday, June 21, 2015

PLAYING CATCH WITH DAD


California Dreaming with Dad, Pacific Ocean, CA

FATHER'S DAY, 2015

As a young man playing baseball, my father was scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals and offered a low paying position at shortstop on their farm club. He decided to abandon the dream and stay at home to help the family. That major decision in my father’s life quite probably resulted in our family’s creation. It’s good to have goals and dreams in life, but when life throws you a curve ball, it just might not be strike three. It could be ball four and a pass to begin a new path around the bases that leads to a new home. Only later after his too early death did I begin to also understand the time and patience he spent to teach me the baseball skills he had acquired. I didn’t become a professional baseball player either, but I learned that we’ve got to work hard at something to be really good at it, sportsmanship, a love for athletics, how to be a team player, developing lasting friendships with teammates, the thrill of competition, how to be a good winner as well as a good loser, and the love of a father to impart his passion to his child so that the dream remains alive.

And like the movie Field of Dreams, some of the best times involved the simple act of playing catch in the backyard. It’s a very human act of I-give-to-you and you-give-back connectedness, many times discussing something about life and many times in serene silence, with just the sound of the rawhide ball hitting the leather glove. The final act of redemption in the movie unfortunately doesn’t happen all too often in real life. The prodigal son gets a second chance to say, “Hey dad, you wanna have a catch”? And his dad replies, “I’d like that”.

The good news is that I’m confident they play baseball in heaven.

Monday, June 15, 2015

CREATING GARDENS



Formal Gardens, Versailles, France
Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, MO
Woodland Garden Path, Jamestown, NC

I’m just one generation off the farm, so I consider that I still have the dusty remnants of wind-blown plowed fields flowing in my veins. I actually enjoy yard work and planting living organisms in the ground. Every spring I get a primeval urge to go outside and dig in the dirt. Once I’ve started the process, things just go with the flow as I view my minute piece of the planet and envision how I can add beauty and symmetry to my immediate surroundings. It turns out to be an ongoing process as nature is constantly evolving and the circle of life goes on as we complete another trip around the sun. Trees mature providing more shade that favors different types of greenery or river rock woodland paths. Shady woodland paths morph into quiet meditative environs that lend themselves to centering our mind in preparation for being still and knowing our Creator. His spirit gently moves in the wind that rustles the leaves and soothes our brow.

The concept of creating gardens goes way, way back to our beginnings in the Garden of Eden—a paradise which God created for his new human beings that were sculpted from the star dust of the Big Bang and given stewardship over it all. Scholars now believe this garden was located in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Mesopotamian Cradle of Civilization in present day Iraq. These humans were created in the image of God whose character was beginning to be revealed immediately in the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth”. Our God loves to create and so do we. Gardens are an endless expression of that creativity and beautifully reflect His creation. My favorite image from the Genesis story is seeing God walking through the garden with Adam and Eve in the cool of the morning.

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in present day Iraq. Unfortunately, everything we know about these overhanging gardens comes from accounts of people who never saw them. Rulers in the ancient Near East were known to construct elaborate gardens as a political statement. The gardens contained examples of the places that had been conquered and annexed as a microcosm of the empire. So was the Garden of Eden. So is my little piece of the earth. Although its reach is rather limited, it is enough.

In Voltaire’s classic satire, Candide is told by his mentor Professor Pangloss that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds in spite of a succession of serious hardships in his life. The disillusioned Candide later receives some practical advice from a small farmer to simply focus on working in order to keep free of three great evils: boredom, vice and necessity. Pangloss then observes that “when man was put in the Garden of Eden he was put there to work; which proves that man was not born for rest”. Candide takes in all this philosophizing and then replies, “That is well said, but we must cultivate our garden” which concludes the story.

Of all the paths we take in life, we need to make sure some of them are dirt so that we can walk bare footed and feel the warmth of the good earth between our toes. And we need to spend quality time working a garden so that we can sense the coolness of our beginnings between our fingers.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

THE RED EGG


Gilded Onion Domes, St. Mary of Magdalene Church, Jerusalem, Israel

As we go along in life we slowly recognize those eternal truths that are part of the human experience. One of these truths reminds us that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately, its corollary is that history is written by the winners. So it is inevitably slanted to the point of view of those in power and the conquerors. The first century culture in Jesus’ time and place was definitely male dominated and for the most part remains so today.

The books of the Bible were mostly written by men through their filtered biases and cultural experience, albeit they were most certainly inspired in their writings. They didn’t give Mary Magdalene a whole lot of credit as one of Jesus’s most trusted disciples so she didn’t get much press at the time. But there is an often overlooked beautiful Russian Orthodox church dedicated to her which is located directly across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount near the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus frequently met his disciples here, wept for the Jewish nation here and it was here that he began his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on that fateful Palm Sunday shortly before his death on a cross.

The seven gilded onion domes caught my photographer’s eye as we entered the Garden of Gethsemane. I took just one photo not knowing what I was shooting but knowing that it was a unique feature on this sacred landscape surrounded by thousands of ancient Jewish tombstones. Later I learned that it was the church of St. Mary Magdalene and it was built by Czar Alexander III in 1888.

The centerpiece inside the church contains a giant white marble and bronze screen painted with the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Above the screen is a painting of Mary Magdalene standing before Emperor Tiberius in Rome. She is holding a red egg. Church tradition tells of Mary bringing an egg to Tiberius and declaring, “Christ has risen!”, since she was the first to see her risen Lord. Tiberius is said to have responded, “How could anyone rise from the dead? It is as impossible as that egg turning red!” As he spoke the egg turned a crimson red symbolizing Jesus’ sacrificial blood. The custom of dying eggs on Easter is believed to have come from this story.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

BROKEN WINDOWS AND GRAFFITI II




27,000 Year Old Cave Print, Indonesia
Hazy New York Skyline, New York City, NY
Street Graffiti, West Bank, Israel


Crude sketches have been showing up on walls since the dawn of civilization. Neanderthal cave drawings have illustrated the trophy animals that were hunted for survival along with the artist’s hand print. American G.I.’s left the ubiquitous sketch of “Kilroy was here” throughout the arenas of World War II. My first trips to Mexico and Honduras immediately caught my attention as I passed the walls of buildings in whole communities covered in graffiti. It was generally accompanied with widespread littering along the road sides, especially on the outskirts of the towns. This isn’t a new problem, but it is a sort of “canary in a coal mine” indication that the people in these areas have succumbed to civil disobedience and apathy. Even poverty-stricken areas have the means to pick up their trash and not deface their own surroundings. I’ve witnessed graffiti on buildings from major cities like New York City to smaller communities like Bethlehem, Israel.

There are those who would claim some forms of graffiti in the cities are art, but it is plainly juvenile vandalism and blatant disrespect for civil order in their own neighborhoods. It always defaces the private property of someone else. In many cases in impoverished areas where someone is simply struggling to survive. In many cases, it represents criminal activity and worse. It’s a leading indicator that social controls and respect for law and order has disintegrated, making these public spaces vulnerable to even more serious civil disorder and law breaking. Disorder has been shown to breed fear in a neighborhood. That fear prompts those who have the means to leave, resulting in a further disintegration of facilities and order.

New York City embraced the academic “theory of broken windows” proposed by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982. They observed that the physical disorder of broken windows, vacant buildings and trashed vacant lots lead to social disorder and fear among the inhabitants. I would add the ubiquitous presence of graffiti all over the community also contributes. However, these would all seem to be the symptoms of the more contentious root social problems of poverty, education, opportunity and a breakdown of the core family with a basic lack of respect for authority.

When New York City police commissioner William Bratton resigned in 1996 after pursuing a quality of life initiative to restore social order on the streets, felonies were down almost forty percent and the homicide rate had been halved. I’m concerned by all the social disorder these days in this country. We have systems in place to deal with our problems and violence has never been shown to be as effective as the peaceful civil disobedience practices of Gandhi, King and Christ. If we don’t learn from history, we’ll continue on our regressive path to once again be sketching animals on cave walls.