Inside, Outside

7

September 14, 2017, Prescott-

Perhaps my own wandering nature

and tendency to hang back,

in novel situations,

are partially to blame,

but all my life,

I have encountered situations,

mostly at work,

where a small group of insiders

has kept me out of the loop.

I can even recall one occasion,

where I confided in my wife,

that I was not sure that I could

trust the school district administration.

I was the principal of a one-school district,

unable to trust the people who hired me.

Frequently, here in town,

I have felt the same.

Valued by the students, parents, and my peers,

but seemingly held in disdain,

by a small, elite group,

who have been here way too long,

I’ve hung on.

The latest such situation ended, today,

and I will now be working with

members of the same, appreciative

and open-minded group,

with whom I happily worked in Spring, 2016.

I wonder what happened,

to the in-crowd,

who obviously love children,

at some level,

even if their “My Way or The Highway” mentality

sets the children off,

so unnecessarily.

Why are their wagons in a circle,

so that my job becomes

“do what you’re told and keep still”?

I’m grateful for my new/old team.

It’s not an age thing,

because, while the team lead is a Millennial,

there are others in their 40’s and 50’s,

and I will be 67, in two months’ time.

It’s not a gender thing,

because, while I am still the only male,

I am not excluded by these ladies,

from any aspect of the work day.

I’ve come to the conclusion

that insecurity breeds insularity.

Dignity

2

September 12, 2017, Prescott-

How expensive is dignity?

Does it require the concealment of frustration,

or the savaging of one’s critics?

Does it require a modicum of intelligence,

or a neurotypical mind?

Is it a prize,

doled out to the favoured few,

or a birthright?

Is it the sole province of humans,

or something conferred,

upon all sentient beings?

A man’s man,

with whom I once had

the honour of working,

maintained that even

machines had dignity.

In his world,

Hal the Computer,

had every right

to tell Dave,

he could not accommodate him.

I ask this,

because my charges

cannot speak,

in conventional tones,

for themselves.

Yet, in my world,

they have every right,

to say, in their own way,

“I can’t do that.”

Fortresses and Myths

4

July 22, 2017, Lexington, VA-

I stopped, overnight, in a town I love:  Harrisonburg, home to James Madison University, to two young couples, who I love as if they were my own children, and to another young lady, whom I also love like a daughter, but who has become a bit estranged, over the past year or so.  I visited the former, at their establishment:  Artful Cafe (formerly known as Artful Dodger), in the heart of downtown H’burg.  Readers might remember this place from my 2016 excursion.  They were coasting, on Friday night, saving their energy to lovingly greet participants in the Shenandoah Pride Festival, which was today’s big event.  I stopped by, again this noon, on my way out of town, and purchased enough cold brew coffee to keep me happy, on the way to Lexington.  The definitely straight young husbands were bare-chested, in solidarity with the Pride group-who, ironically, had not a bare chested person among them.  Their wives sported rainbow bandanas, as their contribution.  Me?  I am very happy with my woman-loving self, and I accept other people’s sexuality, without casting the judgement that belongs to the Creator alone.

I spent about thirty minutes with my Lost Angel,

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J filled me in on her life, of the past two years and, more importantly, of her dreams for the next few.  She seemed a bit embarrassed to not have any great achievements to recount, but you know, just seeing her and knowing that she was essentially okay, was more than enough.  J, and the other four kids, are people who I just want to see happy, as I do with my son and his lovely girlfriend.

I headed south, on I-81, with Charleston, WV and beyond on my radar screen.  Then, I saw a sign for Stonewall Jackson House, as Lexington loomed ahead.  I know, “He betrayed our country!”.  There are those who beg to differ, so being an admirer of some OTHER aspects of his life, I left the highway and drove past the formidable fastness of Virginia Military Institute, where Stonewall was an instructor, prior to the cataclysm.

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My interest in Thomas Jonathan Jackson, though,was not in his military exploits, but in his creativity and in his foresight.  His garden was decidedly Jeffersonian, incorporating many of the ideas put into practice at Monticello, including drip irrigation and organic crop rotation.  As you can see, he did make every square inch count for something.  The scarecrow was a “falcon”.

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Stonewall also, to the consternation of Lexington’s other citizens, believed Black people should be literate, and taught his “house servants” to read the Bible.  I would not be surprised to learn that this action of his actually led to his being coerced to join the Confederate Army, whose cause, despite his ferocity in battle, he only tepidly supported.  He died at the hands of one of his own sentries, which could very well have not been an accident.  Saddest of all, his own sister, an Abolitionist, declared him “dead to her”, upon the secession of Virginia and his being recruited by Robert E. Lee, in 1861.

TJ was a man of culture, and did foresee the end of slavery, war or no war.  He believed in the universality of learning, and maintained a progressive home.

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Satisfied that I had confirmed my suspicions about the decent side of Colonel Jackson, I headed west, across the Mountain State.  At a rest area, off I-64, east of Beckley, WV, I took a photo of the Blue Ridge, and found what looks like another being, inserting self into the view, gazing northward.

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Being far from alone, then, I continued on, into more rain and made it to Olive Hill, KY, before stopping at Spanish Mansion Inn.  More about it, and the Ohio River, in my next post.

 

Charlottesville

0

August 13, 2017, Prescott-

It’s rather ironic, that my journey series has reached the point where my next few posts will be about Antietam, Harpers Ferry, Harrisonburg/Lexington and Olive Hill, KY.  I did not visit the seat of the University of Virginia, this time out.  It is my late wife’s alma mater and Charlottesville is the first place where Penny heard about the Baha’i Faith.  There is a strong Baha’i presence there, to this day.  Were my fellows in faith to be given charge of this weekend’s gatherings, they may well have had white and black extremists cordoned off in one area, as was done at a Baha’i gathering in Orlando, several years ago.  It taught more than a few of them the absurdity of their positions.

Fear has a lot to do with what went on, on both sides.  Fear makes people do prudent things, like staying aware of their surroundings, watching where they put their hands and feet, not picking fights with those who could seriously cause harm.  Fear also can make people do stupid things, like assume a person, who has certain physical features or styles  of dress/adornment, is dangerous or argue a point, that they know is ridiculous, “could possibly be right.”

I believe every life matters, too.  I believe it is right to learn from history and that it is wrong to try and erase history.  There was once an emperor of China, who tried to expunge the record of every ruler who came before him.  He wanted to rewrite history, in his own hand.  It’s said that history is written by the victor, but that didn’t turn out so well, for said Emperor.  Others kept records, then, and others will keep records, now.  Those who remove our statuary are not being honest with children.  They are no better than those who gave short shrift to the legacies of people of colour, over a nearly 200-year period.  History needs to be full and balanced, if we are to learn from our errors, as a nation and as a species.

I am very saddened by the needless and premature death of Heather Heyer.  This wanton act of murder had nothing to do with a certain number of Antifa members being mixed with the anti-Nazi protestors.  Ms. Heyer was not with Antifa, nor was she “bused in by George Soros.”  She was a Charlottesville resident, employed as a paralegal.  It had everything  to do with the killer’s being an impressionable young man, of questionable emotional stability, being influenced, to some degree, by the words and taunts of a good number of Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party members.  The reactions of many of the alt-right protesters does indicate they were not out to kill those who confronted them.  The obscenity-laced comments filling the air- on You Tube videos- did, however, set some people off, including the errant driver.

It’s  long past time to start serious, but respectful and frank dialogue.  Let’s do it, anyway.  It’s long past time for the President to set a strong tone of domestic leadership, aimed at getting differing sides together, peacefully,  but nose-to-nose, if necessary.  The air needs to be cleared of the noxious.  Citizens, however, as was said this evening, at a candlelight vigil here,  also need to set the moral tone, at their level..  No far-off politician can do all the heavy-lifting, nor should a local demagogue be allowed to stir up the passions of one segment of the populace, as happened in Charlottesville.

I am not any kind of supremacist.  I am not any kind of ideologue.  I have lived long enough to know that we lose, mightily, by excluding any group, based on any physical characteristic, faith or creed.  So, on we go, without the vivacious young paralegal, who just wanted to love her community.

The Margins of Ways Long Past

4

July 20, 2017, Hagerstown-

I left Philadelphia, yesterday evening, with minimal trouble.  It seemed that, at some point, there were more people coming INTO the city, than were leaving.  I drove through the northern third of Delaware, bypassing Wilmington, going through bustling Newark- seat of the University of Delaware (both cities are on the itinerary for July, 2018) and across Maryland’s northern tier, through Thurmont (not a  sleepy, bucolic town, but a modern, virtual bedroom town of Frederick- itself a bedroom town to Baltimore and Washington) and Frederick, where I stopped just in time for a police car to head to its emergency.  I continued a few miles further, and stopped for the night in Hagerstown, intending to spend the morning exploring this city that once signified an enclave of antebellum Southern thinking, just shy of the Mason-Dixon Line.

I heard that there is still a lot of progress to be made here, in race relations.  That is pretty much how it is everywhere.  Human relations always need work.  I am not in favour of demolishing relics that we might find disturbingly reflective of outmoded ways of thinking, but I do believe we must USE such monuments and artifacts to educate people on the excesses of the past, so that we may, as a people, do better towards one another, now and in the future.

Hagerstown does not maintain any sites that pay homage to racist thinking, and in fact promotes visits to sites that commemorate Black History in the city.  I have kept a brochure on the subject, for a future visit.  Meanwhile, today’s visit focused on the north end of downtown and on City Park, with its duck pond, acres of beautiful woods and its art museum.  Jonathan Hager House, with a small historical museum, sits on the north end of the park. It was closed today, though.

Let’s start with a look at the north end of downtown.

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The nice ladies in this Welcome Center provided me with a wealth of information about the historic sites in the area- and gave directions to Antietam, which will take up my afternoon and evening.

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Street art is not common, at this end of town, but what there is, is upbeat and colourful.

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There were two windows, devoted to the dissemination of wisdom, in this building.  The saying on the left has pretty much been my credo, for many years now.

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The above left could have been said by Honest Abe, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers- or Ed Wood.

I proceeded to note some architectural gems.  Here’s St. John’s Lutheran Church.

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The fire station has endured a great many storms.

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Every town, that has an active theater troupe, is blessed. This is the Maryland Theatre’s centenary.

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It was time for lunch, so I took my deli stash, and headed for City Park.  Nothing beats a picnic table, overlooking the water.

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There are water fowl galore here, and the pond is well-stocked with fish.

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The forest is healthy, and well-populated, by various animals.  I came across a couple of fellow humans, washing their hair at a water pump.  Those who do live in the park, pick up after themselves, quite nicely.

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The trail to the museum wends past the ducks and their happy home.

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The upper picnic area is well-suited for larger groups.

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This purposeful being greets the visitor to Washington County Museum of Art, founded, in 1929, by William and Anna Singer.  Diana, accompanied by her trusty dog, was fashioned by Anna Hyatt Huntington.

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The museum features a full range of artistic media.  There are two cases of exquisite blown glass.

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I have selected only a couple of scenes, inside the facility, as this is already a long post.  One painting, among the many fine pieces, stood out to me:  Hugo Bailin’s “Earth Forces”.

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One of the loveliest features of this museum is its Saturday Morning gallery, which showcases the work of area children.

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Lastly, here is the delightful Atrium.

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I am providing links to the places I visit, from here on out and will see if WordPress will allow me to back-edit, and provide links to places I have visited thus far.

Here is: http://wcmfa.org/, which, unfortunately you’ll have to type in yourselves.

I ended this Hagerstown excursion with a look at the closed Jonathan Hager House.

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NEXT:  Antietam National Battlefield

 

The Art of Durability

10

July 19, 2017, Philadelphia- 

Whilst waiting for some family members to meet me at downtown Philadelphia’s Cafe Ole,

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A brief walk showed that this belonged to a museum and art gallery, the Center for Art in Wood.  I spent about an hour, in the astonishing museum, which showcases both the traditional plank art of northern Europe and several contemporary pieces, from around the globe.  Several variations use the root word, Mangle, meaning cut, as their base.  Below, is a Danish piece, called a manglebraette.

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Bear with me, I am taking the liberty of interspersing the traditional ware with contemporary pieces.  This one, by an American, Michael Scarborough, celebrates Buddhism.

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Australian artist, Ashley Eriksmoen, presents this Judeo-Christian piece.

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Who wants a wooden sheep?

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These Icelandic pieces are examples of that nation’s trafakefli traditional craft.

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Sweden’s variation is known as mangelbraden.

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Norway’s woodcraft, mangletraer, is displayed at the front of the exhibit.  Some pieces are in glass cases.

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Finland adopted the art form, as well, and is the easternmost country in which the mangleplank tradition took root.  Its form is called kaulauslandet.

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Surprisingly, it is the Netherlands which is credited with originating the art form.  Merchants of the Hanseatic League spread it to the Nordic lands.  The Dutch form is called mangelplanken.

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The variety, in both styles and uses, of woodcraft could capture one’s interest for hours, I think.

Here are a couple of other contemporary pieces.

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I will definitely be back here, next summer, at the very least as a customer-for one of the gallery shop’s more utilitarian pieces, while learning more about plank art.  I, who whittled as a child, could possibly fashion something of use, one of these fine days.

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LXI: Brandywine’s Message

2

July 19, 2017, Chadds Ford- 

My nephew wanted to hit the trail, this morning, so after a few rendezvous snafus, due to differing GPS entries, we met at Birmingham Friends Meeting House, near the site of some of the heaviest fighting.  The battle raged here, on September 11, 1777.  Today, we were the only people on this little hill, south of Chadds Ford.  The Brandywine Valley, today, is better known for its wineries,  for the Wyeth family’s presence and for the Longwood and Main Fountain Gardens, than for one of the heaviest battles of the American Revolution.

Of course, without the battle, which showed the British victors that the war was far from over, it’s likely that all the beauty of this valley would be under entirely different auspices, today.  We spent the first forty minutes of our visit, in and around Birmingham Friends Meeting House and its Peace Garden. First, though, here are a couple of views of the area that was the battle zone, 240 years ago, next month.

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What is the province of grazing cows, today, was a harrowing encampment, for men on opposing sides, but all far from home.  The hospital where all, regardless of loyalty, would be treated for their injuries, was in this modest building- then and now, a Quaker Meeting House.

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Many of their fallen comrades would be buried, in a mass grave, on the south side of this cemetery.  Hundreds lie here, with no regard for their ideology. All were viewed as humans, by the farmers of Birmingham Hill.

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This plaque announces the Peace Garden of Birmingham Hill.

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Again, the serenity of the day- with the distant echo of muskets and cannonade.

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This verse, by John Donne, is one of several cogent quotes, placed carefully, throughout the Peace Garden.

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William Sloane Coffin also offers a simple comment on the world of today.

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A poignant expression of love, from a local farmer to his departed wife, signifies the ongoing daily life, around the battle and its aftermath.

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After time for reflection, we headed to Brandywine State Museum, and spent an hour or so there, before walking to Washington’s Headquarters. The museum offers detailed exhibits of muskets, British rifles (which were largely responsible for the Royal Army’s early successes) and cannonry.  It is, like the Museum of the American Revolution, a well-balanced institution.

In the nearby woods, this long-abandoned gazebo tells of how nature regards the vagaries of war.  It grows over the remnants, and challenges us to unearth them.

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This was Benjamin Ring’s root cellar.  Mr. Ring was the host to General Washington, and his troops, who camped in the fields.

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The Rings most likely stayed in this “servants’ quarters”, during the Revolutionaries’ encampment.

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Here is the main farmhouse, where the General and his staff planned what turned out to be an inadequate strategy.  Much was learned from the battle, though, and it was the hubris of the British, combined with French and Polish support for the Americans, which led to the rising of the Revolutionary forces, after Valley Forge.

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With this, my nephew was off to pick up his little girl, from pre-school, and I was headed to Philadelphia, after a fabulous lunch, at this bustling, somewhat friendly establishment.

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Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LVI: Return to Down East, Part 1- Green Acre

7

July 16, 2017, Eliot, ME-

I had anticipated visiting relatives, outside the immediate family, today.  I just was not sure which ones.  Last night, I got a message from a long-lost cousin, saying that he couldn’t meet with me this time around, but would I please consider visiting his mother, my paternal aunt, on her birthday.

It’s been 28 years, since I last set foot in the State of Maine.  My last visit there didn’t go very smoothly, and I have been embarrassed to return to the last place I stayed.  This time, though, I was determined to make it a good day.

I started out at Green Acre Baha’i School, located  in Eliot, just over the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, NH.  The property, once owned by a spiritualist, was deeded to the Baha’i Faith by Sarah Farmer, after ‘Abdu’l-Baha visited the property, in 1912, and told Ms. Farmer that he foresaw a great center of learning rising there.

It is, at present, a vibrant place of spiritual education, and Green Acre has forged strong ties with the surrounding communities.  I spent about two hours there, before heading up to York.  A high point is always visiting the room where ‘Abdu’l-Baha stayed, during his visit.

Here are some scenes of Green Acre:

The first building that greets the visitor is a large classroom center.

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The administration building and registrar’s office is located diagonally across the street.

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The administrator’s residence is next to the registrar’s office.

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Overlooking it all is the majestic Sarah Farmer Inn.  Students in the various programs, which are generally a week or two in length, stay in this Victorian establishment.

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One may walk down to the banks of the Piscataqua River, across which is Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s only seaport

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The Great Lawn offers a sweeping view of the campus.

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Back in the Sarah Farmer Inn, I recalled having sat and meditated in the parlour, on a previous visit.

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Upstairs, one may pray and meditate in the room where ‘Abdu’l-Baha stayed.  After  I had done so, with three other people praying in the room, it was most prudent to take this photo, from outside the room itself.

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Upon leaving the Sarah Farmer Inn, I was informed that there was a picnic and barbecue outside, which I promptly joined.  A pleasant meal of chicken and several vegetarian dishes, and a chance meeting with friends from Arizona made for a fine ending to this short visit.

I had gathered both nutritional and spiritual sustenance, which would carry me safely onward, eventually back to Arizona.  This day, however, would bring further joys into view: Stonewall Kitchen, where my aunt works; Old York; York Harbor and the Mason Preserve, and a nice little gathering, in auntie’s honour.  Stay tuned.

 

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part XLIX: One Lady’s Flame of Learning

8

July 10, 2017, South Bend-

The University of Notre Dame has long been the stuff of legends, particularly when it comes to college football. There is, of course, far more to this fine institution, so it was ironic that the stadium was off-limits to the public today, with intense construction work being done, in and around it.  My tour of Notre Dame, courtesy of a long-time correspondent, focused on everything else that makes this campus such a great institution.

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Our tour began near the Joyce Center,  a performance center, named for one of the University’s prime movers, Reverend Edmund P. Joyce.

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I am always drawn to student art.  This metal dinosaur was produced by a team of Notre Dame students, and is one of a wide variety of projects, visible around campus.  While I was there, several pieces were being transported to storage, saving them during the summer construction.

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Horticulture is as vital here, for aesthetics and soil enrichment, as it is at any great public place.

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I give you two views of Touchdown Jesus, the lovely, famed, and rather presumptuous, mural which faces Ara Parseghian Stadium.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Rev. Drs. Joyce and Hesburgh are seen, discussing their vision for Notre Dame.

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There are several panels, along the wall of the University Library, depicting symbols from the Old Testament.

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There are four concrete pavilions, in the center of campus, honouring those who fought in World Wars I & II, Korea, Vietnam and the ongoing conflicts in western Asia.

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In the central fountain of these pavilions, is a steel ball, representing our shared planet.

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The Washington Center, Notre Dame’s administrative center, is topped by this golden dome.

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Along the central corridor of the Washington Center are several portraits, depicting the life of Christopher Columbus.  An ornate crown may also be viewed, at the north end of the corridor.

My guide and I next proceeded to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  The modernesque features of the interior stand somewhat in contrast to the interiors of several much older cathedrals of, say, western Europe. Nonetheless, the artistry does a fine job of telling the Eternal Story.

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The High Altar, the Altar of St. Peter and the Altar of the Blessed Mother appear, lined up.

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The Basilica’s ceiling calls attention to the Divine Sacrifice.

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This tree shows its resilience, after a sacrifice of a different sort.

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It was now time for my guide to head back to her other duties, so from here, I spent several minutes on my own.

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That time was spent in the Jordan Center for Science.

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The Center’s biological and medical research is wide in field, most notably its research into blindness.  The Museum, closed when I was there, has an extensive collection of skeletons and taxidermy.

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The Sundial hearkens back to a time when naturalistic observation meant the difference between life and death.

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This has been one of the more fascinating campus tours, along with that, four years ago, of Princeton University, courtesy of another longtime correspondent. So, farewell, Notre Dame and Ara Parseghian Stadium.

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Peacefulness Is Back

10

June 7, 2017, Prescott-

Questions of longevity are always in the background, as I think about what one might do, over the next three to five years. I just finished reading a book, Apocalypse, by Dr, Jim Richards, a Christian writer and broadcaster, and will have more to say about said book, a post or two from now.  The thing I wish to mention, here, is Dr. Richards’ trust in God is a true thing of beauty, and I have to say, I share just about all of it.  That gives me something on which to work.

Several things happened today, all of them good.  I pretty much am down to two large and two small sections of brush, to be cleared, after a mild, cool morning served as my incentive to get more done than I had planned.  I got more supportive e-mails from the District, including one I had never expected, from my recent supervisor.  Goes to show, I need to work on my reading of people’s cues.  Anyway, the job situation looks set for the coming year.

Housing is something about which I am still pondering.  I am also getting advice, mostly unsolicited, about my supplemental finances.  The final decisions about both will be made towards the end of this month.

Having spoken at length with Aram, last night, I reiterate as to how proud I am of what he has achieved, and how he is facing continuing challenges.  He has another person to support him in his efforts now, and that, as many of us know, will make all the difference.

The car will get serviced on Friday, I will continue downsizing and yard work, the rest of this week- and the latter part of next,  and in between, run an errand of mercy in southern California, as well as visiting a friend, or three, there.

Rough patches tend not to last long, if one pushes forward with, as Muhammad Ali said, “eyes on the prize”.