We’ve ‘arrived’

Featured image: Snowdrops, a most welcome mid-February sight as we were walking to St Ives.

Cornwall Cogitation 7/185 Saturday 16 February 2019   Arrived , , , ha, ha. We’ve arrived in Carbis Bay/St Ives, Cornwall UK in the physical sense, minus any implied pretension. Ha, ha. We’re grateful for safe travel and delighted to unpack once again.

I quote one sentence from the late John Betjeman in his 1964 Cornwall: A Shell Guide: “The old and beautiful Cornwall is now mostly to be found on foot or in a small car by those skilled in using the 1-inch ordnance survey map.”

On foot we are, supplemented by train, bus, rides with friends, sometimes taxi, but mostly on foot. The weather this week was mostly sunny and breezy. Signs of spring greet us everywhere.

 

Coffee or tea?

People in the UK drink 95 million cups of coffee a day–an increase of 25 million in the last 10 years. I read that stat in Tesco magazine,  related to a feature, “Cook with coffee.”

I had a flat white coffee and chocolate croissant at Starbucks at Paddington Station, London, Monday morning.

From an online source I read that the average Brit drinks 876 cups of tea a year. Judging by the comparative space allocated to tea on grocery shelves, the tradition of putting the kettle on endures.

Making a big deal out of which drinker dominates, coffee or tea lover, would only brew a tempest in a teapot. There’s nothing to be gained from such a trivial pursuit. I’m glad for both beverages–and the occasional hot chocolate, among a selection of adult beverages.

 

View from the train

Chalk horse on the Downs near Westbury in County Wiltshire as we sped past on the train. .

 

Arrival

The welcome fare in our flat included a bowl of fruit (bananas, apples, oranges), loaf of bread, butter, milk, cheese, eggs and two dozen daffodils. Warm welcome indeed.

The Cornish Arms Pub, warm welcome, fine meal and drink.

For dinner on our first night we walked to Carbis Bay Hotel for fish and chips. The “happiest meal” came Tuesday at the Cornish Arms pub–fish pie.  Enough to take home. The fireplace added a cozy ambiance. When we first came to Carbis Bay for a longer term stay in 2008, the Cornish Arms was not serving evening meals in winter. We walked another mile into St Ives for dinner then. What a happy surprise this time, and tasty, too.

Wednesday included a walk around Truro, getting some provisions, and attending Evensong at Truro Cathedral. The music, scripture and prayers brought deep focus to the day.

The words of Psalm 62:3-4 from Evensong strike an insistent, startling, irrefutable note (New International Version here instead of the wonderfully evocative King James): “How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down–this leaning wall, this tottering fence? They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.”

Food for deep thought

Two items in The Guardian (Tuesday 12 February) should give pause to all. The first is a short report, “Climate risks ‘similar to 2008 financial collapse.'” Jonathan Watts writes, “The gathering storm of human-caused threats to climate, nature and the economy pose a danger of systemic collapse comparable to the 2008 financial crisis, according to a new report that calls for urgent and radical reform to protect political and social systems.”

The study, by the Institute  for Public Policy Research, Watts writes, “says the combination of global warming, soil infertility, pollinator loss, chemical leaching and ocean acidification is creating a ‘new domain of risk’, which is hugely underestimated by policymakers even though it may pose the greatest threat in human history.”

I quote from a piece, Ecology, on the editorial page: “A silent global catastrophe is under way among the insects all other life needs.” The concluding paragraph: “Some governments have done necessary things. The EU has banned neonicotinoid pesticides. But the necessary change also relies on individual action. As individuals we must consume less in every way, which helps with climate change. We must also change our food habits. To eat less meat and more organic is not just piety. A little self-restraint in this generation will make all the difference to our grandchildren.”

The message hits home. Food for body, mind and spirit.

 

Blossoms in winter in south-west England

 

The week in brief

Walks are invigorating (in five days we’ve walked 30 miles). We’ve reconnected with a few people. Evensong always draws attention to the eternal and its application in the present. I picked up 17 books (Marty got only eight) at the St Ives Library which will be closed for a month for remodeling to include the Visitor Information Centre. These books are a welcome antidote to what some news-makers are cooking.

We’re pretty much settled in, arrived.

Cornwall Cogitation. Here we go!

-John

Up-anchor and away

Featured image: Jack Frost decorated the garage door at the home of Doris Mast, Marty’s sister.

Cogitation 6/184 Saturday 9 February 2019   “Up-anchor and away,” I said to the piles of papers moored on my desk–or something to that effect–as I cleaned up for travel to Cornwall, UK.

In the process I found assorted items begging for notice before being shredded or refiled.  Some appear below.

The nautical imagery could imply we’re sailing across the pond. Not so. I just like the image of a slower, steady pace that ship travel entails. It will be air to London, train to Cornwall, on foot (five minutes) to our rental flat, Ahoy There! Ahoy-hoy Carbis Bay/St Ives!

Multiple choice: Why are Marty and John not including horse and buggy transportation in their modes of travel to the UK? A: Too cold. B: Horse sense. C: They don’t have a phone number for an Amish Uber. D: All of the above. E: None of the above. Let the answer tickle your imagination. I prize the preservation of a way of life that keeps a community intact. I’m reminded of how Queen Victoria made the most of both riding horses and travel by horse and carriage.

Hitching rail at Martin’s grocery store close to our home. We walk since we have no place to house a horse–or the means and skill to own and care for one. I love to hear the rhythmic clip clop sound of hooves on pavement.

Notes from my desk

  • A quote from Lawrence Hill: “When it comes to understanding others . . . we rarely tax our imaginations.” The Book of Negros, (HarperCollins, Toronto, 2007).
  • Last paragraph of a book review, sadly with no notation of the book’s title, date or newspaper. Thankfully, the reviewers name, Allan Massie, appears at the end: “This is the best sort of historical novel. It respects the past and brings it alive. It is alert to ethical and cultural differences. It shows that people in the past often thought differently from us, while at the same time reminding us that they experienced the same emotions.”
  • From a note card: “Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”
  • Paper supply I found getting ready for our move last year: 200 Sheets Typing Paper, G.L. Perry $1.97, 11/94.
  • New Year’s reflection, shared a month ago with a small group of friends concerning a Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down personal experience in 2018. I chose to talk about our move to an independent living home in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), 12 miles away.
  • Thumbs up. The sweet pleasure of purging stuff. The glorious help of friends in a move that brought us closer–the real stuff. I can’t imagine being friendless, without people with whom to share, listen, commiserate, encourage, laugh, shed tears. Two thumbs up. No stairs in the new home. Friendly neighbors; Inquisitive squirrels. Mail delivered in the morning rather than late afternoon. Opportunity to shape a new home and explore life in a CCRC. Continuity with family and friends and finding new connections with people. Living freer, looser, more farsightedly, even more lightheartedly. We moved lots of memories with us. Anticipating God with us.
  • Thumbs down. Stresses of transition. A sense of finality, as in, what we planned and prepared for during the last 10 years has come to pass. The move involved decisions, sorting, loss, grieving even in saying goodbye to 42 years invested in making our former house a home in a location we loved. Our house and property grew with us. We had to leave behind the flowing river, the footpaths, the accessible downtown, the tried and true. Our empty house seemed to call after us: why are you forsaking me?
  • Green thumb addendum. Our new residence with Greencroft Goshen means we are part of a corporate community where expectations both ways run more closely together than in other living settings. The Greencroft organization has proven hallmarks in serving the varying needs and interests of residents and the wider community. Residents have a say in balancing their perspectives with that of management–the vital communication and provisions needed for promoting the best that life can be.  Volunteer opportunities, services and activities abound, even as you can close your door and do your own thing. Promoting personhood at every level of living is a key part of the success of any community.

 

Remembering Leonard Brian Bender

Last July our extended family gathered to celebrate the life of my brother Brian Bender. He died of cancer. Brian lived with deep faith and resilience. His was one of the story sketches in a book, Overtime: Portraits of Vanishing Canada. by Karl Kessler and Sunshine Chen (The Porcupine’s Quill, Erin, Ontario, 2018).

Brian mixed livestock feed at B-W Mill in New Hamburg, Ontario. He is quoted, “We work with a batch ticket, which is just like a recipe out of a cookbook.” To stay competitive, milling is becoming computerized, and new equipment is replacing the old. For Brian, “It’s been a very good job, and it seemed like we could have a little fun, too.”

For a number of years Brian worked with children in institutional care in London, Ontario. He and his young family then took over the farm where we grew up. His last job of many years was as a feed mixer–and go-to storyteller.

Brian knew a lot about everything: about living, about dying, about living uncomplainingly with a visual impairment, about romance, about occupational transitions, about caring for others, about putting feet under Christian faith.

Talking on the phone as his disease progressed, I asked Brian where he got his passion for living, for faith formation, for discipleship. He lauded his experience in a large Voluntary Service Unit in London, Ontario. That experience, among others, exposed him to the wider world of people, of faith formation through Bible study, prayer and unit living, lasting friendships, and that glorious meeting with his life-partner, Vivian Peachey, a VSer from the Big Valley, Pennsylvania. Brian was blessed in the intimate mutuality of life with Vivian, their two daughters, grandchildren and extended family and friends.

Forward-looking, outward-looking, upward-looking, that describes Brian’s passion for where footsteps can go. He liked the poems of Robert Frost, especially The Road Not Taken. The road less traveled was really an engaging and fulfilling one for Brian. A friend shared a fitting perspective on how we can regard partings in this life. She said, “Those we have loved do not just go away. They go ahead.” Such is the context of gratitude, love and hope.

 

Becoming

On Sunday we sang We rejoice to be God’s chosen, a hymn by John Bell. The last phrase of the first stanza reads, “. . . we are pulled by heaven’s dynamic to become, not just to be.” So fitting. Life is about becoming, the sum of our doing and being. I also like Bell’s concluding phrase: “. . . with wonder that the best is yet to be.”

Windows on the north side of our meetinghouse, Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Elkhart, IN. Church

Founding pastor John F. Funk began his sermons with this first verse of Psalm 103. Carved in cherry wood by sculptor John Mishler, Goshen, IN.

 

What “Earth” looked like, mid-1980s

This week I looked at one of the reference works I’ve barely consulted since it was published in 1987. It’s the 326-page Graphic Learning Earth Book World Atlas. I don’t remember how we got this volume, but our names are embossed on the cover. So it should have a life off the shelf more often.

Publisher ML (Mert) Yockstick wrote: “The Age of Information brought a new perspective to the planet Earth. Immediate access to information fostered a broader understanding of the world and precipitated a planetary mind change. As a result, communities and countries are slowly losing their prominence as our place of residence. The entire Earth is becoming our home. People on the other side of the oceans or continents no longer seem so foreign. We are beginning to realize our dependency on each other as human beings sharing the Earth and its environments.”

The online Information age exploded into the social media, smart devices of every sort, artificial intelligence (AI) age. Yockstick saw the world beyond 2000 and beyond as a time “when our capacity to view and understand the Earth will continue to expand. But so will our capacity to create damage to the already delicate condition of Earth’s environments. The waste of resources, depletion of natural life forms and erosion of human conditions are issues and phenomena that affect us all. When an error in human judgement affects the lives, well-being, happiness and health of millions of people across many nations, we are no longer dealing with cultural, spiritual or political ideologies. the very survival of humanity now depends upon the mutual respect for the Earth and its people.”

Has my mind changed about the earth? Yes. Growing up on a farm I thought the more land that got cleared for agriculture, the more fences that gave way to bigger fields, the more tiles put down to drain swampy land, the more commercial fertilizer used to supplement manure, the more pesticides used to combat crop diseases–all for the better.

Whoops. Slow down. Count the birds, butterflies, and wildflowers among nature’s passion for preservation. Strike a balance. Care intensely for water, air and earth. I agree with Yockstick: “Our survival and the survival of other species on Earth ultimately depend upon understanding our planet and physical environments.”

A nut olive sandwich at the seemingly unchanging Olympia Candy Kitchen in downtown Goshen fulfills one’s heart’s desire, unless you are allergic to cashews (thinking of you, cousin Carol).

Hope

I was happy to discover the view Stacey Abrams has about nation and world in 2019. You’ll recall she presented the response to President Trump’s state of the union address last Tuesday. In an article in Foreign Affairs Abrams wrote: “Electoral politics have long been a lagging indicator of social change.” It took a long time for women to get the franchise, as it did for African Americans and other minorities.

Abrams was minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Democratic candidate for governor in the 2018 mid-term election. She received more votes than any Democrat in Georgia’s history, falling 54,000 votes shy of victory, “in a contest riddled with voting irregularities that benefited my opponent,” she wrote in the Foreign Affairs article.

Abrams said her campaign “built an unprecedented coalition of people of color, rural whites, suburban dwellers, and young people in the Deep South by articulating an understanding of each group’s unique concerns instead of trying to create a false image of universality.”

Abrams approach reveals a level-headed understanding of what is needed to heal the political divide, the social divide, the faith divide in the nation–people hearing each others concerns and together dealing with the growing pains of multicultural coexistence.

 

A recipe

I conclude with a hastily scribbled partial recipe for Creamy Turmeric Cauliflower Soup. The incomplete recipe could send a cook’s hairnet flying or generate generous dollops of creativity. You have to imagine some steps. I may try it sometime.

From a forgotten source I wrote: “Briefly cooking pumpkin seeds and cumin in hot oil. Yellow onion, garlic. Flour and stock. Rice vinegar. Light brown sugar. Black pepper.”  Oh yes, don’t forget the cauliflower. Who said creativity doesn’t belong in the kitchen? Or that recipes such as this might be a hit in a Not every meal needs to be perfect cookbook.

Up-anchor and cook away!

Map of the UK or Britain, short form for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Note that Great Britain includes just England, Scotland and Wales. Some in Cornwall would love to have the same status as Scotland and Wales with devolved governance responsibilities, such as separate laws, education system, local and national government and more, a separate nation within a United Kingdom.

County Cornwall extends from Bude on the Atlantic to Plymouth on the English Channel, west and south to Land’s End.

I’m looking forward to what adding Cornwall to the lead-in Cogitation, as in Cornwall Cogitation 7, will do for photos and commentary next time.  See you soon.

-John

Dramatic sky over hibernating irrigation system n northern Indiana, Friday.

 

‘For more cold weather, go to: page 5’

Featured image: Remember eating an icicle, pulling taffy in snow, getting a finger or tongue stuck on an outdoor pump–surely not the latter. Childhood winters evoke fun memories.

Cogitation 5/183 Saturday 2 February 2019   If not page 5, then go to the TV storm team. Better yet, go to winter memories of childhood.

We’ve seen plenty of reports this week of the long reach of the polar vortex and the associated reversal of temperatures, that is warmer weather appearing in northerly regions than what we experienced as atypical lows farther south.

Sign on one of the doors of Evergreen Place, the assisted living residence at Greencroft Goshen.

To the extreme temperatures of the polar vortex creeping south in a big arc, add the heatwave bringing misery to Australia’s summer. Snakes there found refuge in people’s toilets. How can one fathom it all?

I can barely imagine such extreme cold, windchill of -75F; (-59C), in the upper Midwest US, and extreme heat, 116F (46C), in Australia. I’m used to seeing outside temperatures of minus 60F as we fly across the Atlantic, but not on the ground. Seventy-five percent of the US population saw below zero F temperatures this week.

It’s hardly consoling that the hottest place on earth is Death Valley, California, where the average daily annual temperature is 115 degrees F. Death Valley is 190 feet below sea level and gets less than 3 inches of rain a year. I have yet to visit, though Marty did visit there decades ago and can vouch for the intense heat and stark beauty of the place.

 

We’re weathering the deep freeze tolerably well, thank you

The Greencroft Goshen grounds crew cleared the parking circle and sidewalks around our court, and the other independent and assisted living homes, healthcare, and activity centers on this 175-acre campus. Thank you.

It was sub-zero right here in the Maple City, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The harsh conditions led to school closures, no UPS, postal or newspaper deliveries, train travel in and out of Chicago suspended, some power outages, and special measures taken to help out people who are homeless.

I count my blessings: shelter, warm clothing, food on hand and available nearby (though our closest grocery store closed mid-afternoon Friday just as we arrived on foot: burst water pipe), online news, reading material, Michiana classics on WAUS radio, the Rinker Family Wellness Center, Greencroft in full snow-plowing mode, and oh yes, the cool taste of a Klondike bar.

The visitors’ parking area around the tree includes enough snow to build a few guest igloos.

 

What’s going on?

If you grasp what’s going on in the world–bravo!

I’m more with Ben Hecht who said, “Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.” Hecht (1894-1964), was a crime reporter and columnist in Chicago before he moved to California to become a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright.

I’m for journalists, broadcasters, columnists, novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, and others, who work hard to give us forthright coverage and interpretation of what’s going on. Without good journalists and commentators we’d be in a pickle. I’m with Charles Prestwich Scott (1846-1932) editor of the Manchester Guardian for 57 years, who in the paper’s style-book underscored “comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

Real issues. What’s going on in the world includes global warming, the drowning of 16,000 refugees in the Mediterranean last year, Brexit, unresolved conflict in the Middle East, citizens fleeing a number of countries in Latin America, and natural disasters.

In the  US, congress and the supreme court have to cope with executive office imposed trade sanctions, fixation on a wall as the big border security solution, and leadership by tweet. Meanwhile, lives are lost at the hands of people with knives and guns, recovery is still in the works from a costly government shutdown, and causes behind the widespread deep freeze and rising temperatures get a flippant, nonsensical response.

Across the pond in the UK, the prospect for an orderly, meaningful, forward-looking exit from the EU has politicians stymied.

Murphy’s law. The adage, Murphy’s law, comes to mind. It says that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” often at the worst time.  The tendency has been to put the blame on something other than humans, Nature, animals, a bogyman take the heat. I like how The Guardian Book of English Language puts the onus where it belongs: “If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.”

Triple bottom line. I can only hope that governments, like smart businesses, will more and more operate on the principles of the triple bottom line. It’s the line that measures investment results in terms of people, planet, and profits. Long-term success for governments, businesses and not-for-profits depends on a bottom line that measures social responsibility, environmental impact, and economic value. The key word is long-term sustainability, achieved when all three measures are factored in.

Who would disagree that the future for a child born in 2019 depends on triple vigilance concerning air and water quality, energy consumption, natural resources, solid and toxic waste, land use/land cover? These are matters calling for local, regional, national and global attention. No governing authority worthy of its name accepts mediocrity, tall claims, and a rewind of  history as acceptable measures of success. I pray that a goodly number of our leaders will have an epiphany of how new personal and institutional purpose and meaning can help us rise above the precipitous, messy and avoidable conditions that grind us down.

Right on, King Canute. I wish our modern leaders had the spirit and common sense of King Canute. Canute was a Danish king of England, Denmark and Norway from 1016-1035. Legend says he commanded the tide to turn back. He did it on purpose to make a point to his courtiers, to show his royal entourage that he was not all powerful–but he was still in charge and that those among his courtiers who were skilled in flattery and intrigue, ambition, and lack of regard for the national interest better shape up.

 

Winter does bring wonder

Wooded area in Goshen along the Elkhart river, floodplain for spring melt and rain.

I took this and the previous photo through the car window, Marty driving, on the way home from having a new battery, front brakes, and an LPMS (tire-pressure) sensor installed, and oil changed. The car is ready for spring.

It has not been an easy week. Still, I for one, thankfully in league with many others, aim to do my bit to abate our world’s extremes. And the birds this Saturday morning are back with their cheering tweets.

-John

There’s change in the air

Featured image: Farm dog Milt examines the felled silo on the farm where I grew up.

Cogitation 4/182 Friday 25 January 2019   There’s change in the air, even with evidence to the contrary.

There’s change in the air in people recognizing the folly of what passes for prime time national politics.

What we see in the US and Great Britain is leaders riding hobby-horses as though they’re glued to the saddle.

What’s the origin of the term “hobby-horse” and what does it mean today? “To ride one’s hobby-horse was to play an infantile game of which one soon tired,” says The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. “It now implies to dwell to excess on a pet theory.” The term is attributed to one of John Wesley’s sermons: “Every one has his hobby-horse!” O.K. Alright. If you say so. I’m in for some personal introspection.

In the thicket of recent political intransigence and turmoil, as in the US and Great Britain, I offer another term: Hobson’s Choice. From Wordsworth’s reference: “The saying derives eponymously [I had to look that word up: it means “after whom something is named”] from Thomas Hobson (1544?-1631), a Cambridge carrier well known in his day . . . who refused to let out any horse except in its proper turn.”

Hobson had the carrier route for passengers and mail between Cambridge and London. When horses were not needed for the business, he rented them to students. Rather than let them pick their favourite horse and thus overwork any one horse, Hobson said the students needed to take the horse closest to the stable door or none at all.

Hence Hobson’s Choice became a term applied to more than horses. Make of it what you will, for whomever you will, for whenever you will. Hobson’s Choice means you make a choice between taking what is offered and nothing at all. It also implies that the people offering the choice have solid reason, management savvy, and a good sense of the prudent use of resources behind them to stay the course.

Hobby-horse. Hobson’s Choice.  What we’ve seen with the proposed wall along the Mexican/US border begs the question. Oh no, not another phrase tossed into the mix. To beg the question is to “assume a proposition which, in reality, involves the conclusion.” The assumed proposition that security will come from building a wall, in reality, is posed as answer enough, without reference to other measures that will make the border secure, including bridges, pathways to citizenship, and acknowledgement of the travail that brought and brings people to seek asylum.

Enough. Hobby-horse, Hobson’s Choice, to beg the question. There’s change in the air.

 

Celestial spheres

There’s change in the air in the dynamic pulse of celestial orbs.

I watched the sunrise Sunday morning and the lunar eclipse Sunday night–the latter in brief freezing vigils on our patio. The sights gave me chills for nature’s wonders.

It was 2-for-1, a total lunar eclipse with a Super Blood Wolf Moon. But I missed the splash of light from a meteor hitting the moon.

Photos of the sunrise show the sun exploding through branches. One moon shot, bathed in Earth’s shadow, is silhouetted by the branch of an oak tree. The redness, I read, came from sunlight scattering off Earth’s atmosphere.

Sunday sunrise

Lunar eclipse

Branches of an oak tree frame the moon.

 

The Rinker Family Wellness Center

There’s change in the air as we take up a wellness routine in our new continuing care retirement community.

A trainer has developed a personal plan for each of us to properly use the strength training equipment and 11 pieces of cardio equipment in this spacious fitness room in the Greencroft Goshen Community Center. We already feel progress, especially with upper body strengthening.

A horse of another color. Giddy up!

 

Insight from LinkedIn

There’s change in the air as the rubber hits the road in naming the skills companies need most in 2019.

I’m a member of the online community LinkedIn, but have yet to use its publishing and connecting function.  I was intrigued this week to read the article, “The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019–And How to Learn Them,” by Paul Petrone, editor, LinkedIn Learning.

First, five soft skills most worth learning in 2019: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, time management, Right on. Mentioned with each skill are recommended courses offered by LinkedIn and a one sentence statement why it matters.

Second, Petrone outlines these 25 hard skills most worth learning in 2019: cloud computing, artificial intelligence, analytical reasoning, people management, mobile application development, video production, sales leadership, translation, audio production, scientific computing, game development, social media marketing, animation, business analysis, digital marketing, industrial design, competitive strategies, customer service systems, software testing, data science, computer graphics, corporate communications.

The last one, corporate communications, is the field that helped put bread and butter on our table during my career as a writer-editor. For corporate communications Petrone lists courses in crisis communication, writing a press release, public relations foundations: media training. He writes: “Why it matters, in one sentence: With social media, local mistakes can lead to global outrages, requiring people who can manage difficult situations.”

I totally agree. Been there. I’d add that corporate communicators help put goodwill in the bank for organizations. As they act in directing two-way communication exchange across bridges within the organization, among  its stakeholders, and with the wider public, openness, transparency, and responsiveness are cultivated for the good of all. Conversely, a closed, opaque, non-responsive organization squanders its goodwill.

There’s change in the air as businesses, other organizations, agencies, schools, religious entities–and governments–adopt the skills needed most in 2019.

 

The silo comes down

There’s change in the air on the farm where I grew up.

The last silo on the farm no longer stands. It took 200 sticks of dynamite to bring it down. Two other smaller silos were taken down earlier. The barn came down last summer.

The landscape has changed, even as memory holds fast of horses Rose and Bell, cows, pigs, chickens, beef cattle. Tractors. Mixed farming. Corn, oats, wheat, turnips, alfalfa. Large gardens. Work bees. Neighbours helping neighbours with threshing. Shares in equipment and labour with an uncle and aunt. Chores, before and after school. Pulping turnips and mangles for the cattle.

Scooting around the smaller silos to fasten the filler pipes. Seeing the big picture from on fairly high. In the smaller silos forking down ensilage by hand. Glad that a brother and a nephew and his family today live on the farm in East Zorra Township, Oxford County, Ontario. A place rich in memories, always a pleasure to set foot there. Silos have their day, memories a lifetime.

The blast captured by a drone.

Boom. Lift off. Sand cloud. Up and then down. Photos sent by my sister, Kaye.

Still life. The giant has fallen. I climbed to the top to tie the pipe in place and another time to take shots of the farm.

There’s change in the air. I can feel it even in winter’s depth of cold. Onward!

-John

 

An easy step to home from home

Featured image: An Amish school in LaGrange County, Indiana. One of many. Scene from Friday.

Cogitation 3/181 Saturday 19 January 2019   It’s an easy step from our home in the US to our rental flat in the UK. We plan to be there in less than a month, home in the village of Carbis Bay, next to St Ives.

Our car sits in a carport, an open area with a roof. That’s O.K. I read an article this week about the history of garages for vehicles that began in 1910. Today those yawning portals are used for lots of other things, like storage, extra living space, tinkering, birth of bands, start of the Apple computer, and more. The 3-car garage did away with the front porch and stables. Bring back the porch. The Amish have kept the stables. Good going!

Anticipation, Ahoy There!

The easy part is the anticipation. It’s the step to journey’s-end my mind takes in covering the almost 4,200 miles (6,760 km)  to get to home from home in Cornwall. Imagining I’m already there connects now to then, list of to-dos to check, check, check, the usual and the new in life across the pond.

I’m adapting a short statement by Joseph Stroud called Directions, which he wrote in anticipation of a visit to Yorkshire in northern England, whereas we’re going to the south west end of the country, County Cornwall, or as the Cornish sometimes point out, Duchy of Cornwall. We came across Directions in a memorable visit to Yorkshire in 2004.

Directions, please

Take a plane to London. From Paddington Station take the Great Western Railway to St Erth. Transfer to the branch line to Carbis Bay. On that 10-minute seaside ride gaze over sprawling Porthkidney Beach and St. Ives Bay to Godrevy Lighthouse. Alight at the Carbis Bay stop. Walk uphill–it’s only five minutes–to your rental flat, breathe in  the Atlantic air. Welcome  home!

Greet neighbors. Walk to the Cornish Arms. Cozy. The fireplace should be lit. Tomorrow you’ll walk to the Halsetown Inn. The fireplace will be lit. Lunch will be heavenly. The waitperson may even say, “You haven’t been here for a while.” Sweet. If surfing were my thing that alone would be reason enough to splash about Cornwall.

Stroud: “For a moment everything will be all right. You’re back at a beginning. . . . You’ll walk for hours. You’ll walk the freshness back into your life. This is true. You can do this.”

Even now, sitting in my home office, with this and that and the other thing  to attend to, with snow falling, with the machinations of state here and across the pond, gridlocked, pitiful, blinkered like a horse, I can gaze across one of Cornwall’s Areas of Outstanding Beauty, imagine walking on the moors, through small fields, along the sea, connecting with the natural, physical and human world, working my life, as Stroud wrote, “step by step, into grace.”

Truro will be one place we’ll visit in the first couple weeks. We’ll travel there by train, a 45-minute journey, watching for the belted Galloway cows en route. We’ll do one or more of our favourite walks around and beyond the city, visit Tugboat, a coffee bean and loose tea shop, pop into Malletts Home Hardware for a look-around and maybe a coffee in their café, peer about wistfully in one of the used bookshops and at Waterstones, attend the incomparable Evensong at Truro Cathedral, then get a sandwich and crisps to eat on the train home.

Truro is the southernmost city in mainland Britain. It has an urban population of only 23,000. It is the administrative and commercial center of County Cornwall, home to Cornwall Council, The Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro College, The Royal Cornwall Hospital, and Cornwall’s Courts of Justice. Maybe I’ll get to visit the latter this year–visitors’ gallery, please. Unfortunately, the live-stage complex, Hall for Cornwall, has been gutted and will be rebuilt in a project projected to take at least two years.

Another day we’ll go to Penzance, 12 miles away on the English Channel. A visit to the Penlee Gallery is a must. One day we’ll walk along the Promenade to Newlyn or Mousehole for lunch. In Newlyn we may pick up some fresh fish from a shop next to the docks.

Of course, we’ll “do” St Ives and the wonderful villages, gardens and historic sites out and about, patronize grocers, bake shops, the library, tea rooms, restaurants, join the walks of the West Cornwall Footpaths Preservation Society–maybe even lead one of the walks, cook, read, watch telly, and, oh yes, keep flowers on our table.   

What makes Cornwall attractive for our winter/spring stay is the climate that brings out daffodils in January, paths that beckon, friends, cafes and pubs, church, galleries, fresh air, and as a friend back home in Indiana suggested this week, fog. Yes, I’ll welcome a spell of sea mist, even if it lasts a day or two.

In the meantime, I’ll make the most of snow and cold right here in Indiana, even as in my mind I glimpse working my life, step by step, into deeper grace.

 

This week’s gallery

Squirrel and I both had walnuts for breakfast–mine from a bag above the stove.

Squirrel tracks on our patio.

The oaks in our backyard still have a few leaves to shed.

 

Shipshewana, Indiana, yesterday

The Wolfe Grain Mill operates in the middle of the tourist- and entertainment-rich village of Shipshewana, Indiana.

We had lunch Friday at Jo Jo’s Pretzels and coffee at The Kitchen Cupboard in the Davis Mercantile, a three-story edifice built with Amish- and related-craftsmanship.

Trunk of a Douglas Fir harvested in British Columbia, Canada, now anchoring the stairway to four levels of the Davis Mercantile, .

 

God’s steadfast presence gives me hope wherever I am. Peace. Joy. Grace.

-John

‘Make haste slowly’

Featured image: A dramatic sky slowly passes over a field in LaGrange County last Saturday.

Cogitation 2/180 Saturday 12 January 2019   “Make haste slowly,” said Suetonius of old.

Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, born AD 69, died after 122, was a Roman biographer and antiquarian, a member of the equestrian or knightly class.

If Suetonius were around for a cup of of tea or coffee on this wintry Saturday, what would we talk about? The books he wrote on literary figures? The book he wrote on Julius Caesar and 10 other emperors? Horses?  Food, customs, clothes, scandals? His friend Pliny the Younger? I’ll have to see what the library has on Suetonius. In the meantime, I’m pausing to fetch a cup of coffee.

What slow brings to mind

“Slow” brings to  mind food, pace, reserve, caution, also being surefooted, as in “Make haste slowly,” antiquity, scripture, movement of clouds or moon,

Early evening over Oliver Lake in LaGrange County.

 

More on Suetonius

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Suetonius is free from the bias of the senatorial class that distorts much Roman historical writing. His sketches of the habits and appearance of the emperors are invaluable, but like Plutarch, he used ‘characteristic anecdote’ without exhaustive inquiry into its authenticity. . .  . Suetonius wrote with firmness and brevity. He loved the mot juste, and his use of vocabulary enhanced his pictorial vividness. Above all, he was unrhetorical, unpretentious, and capable of molding complex events into lucid expression.”

 

Still more on ‘make haste slowly’ 

Sister-in-law Doris’ cat, Snuggles, fills the bill whether as a mouser or a snoozer, consummate expert at both.

The slow food movement includes the growing and preparation of food in keeping with local culinary traditions, as in high-quality locally-sourced grains, legumes and meat.

Slow travel includes taking an off-the-beaten-path route or taking time to visit places along the way.

Slow etiquette includes withholding quick judgement or instant criticism.

I just started reading the book, The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity, by Louise DeSalvo (St Martin’s Griffin, 2014).

In the Preface, DeSalvo said her reflections are “an invitation for us to think about the specific techniques we can use to enter the slow writing life; find ways to deal with the emotional pitfalls–fear, anxiety, judgement, self-doubt–that inevitably accompany our work; delve into what it means to live a healthy and productive creative life; and celebrate our tenacity and our accomplishments.”

Reading DeSalvo put me on the search for more on what’s slow.

Indulge me a few more quotes.

Thomas Shadwell (d. 1658): “The haste of a fool is the slowest thing in the world.”

Edmund Burke (1729-1797): “The march of the human mind is slow.”

Proverbs 16:32: “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”

These various reflections on slow shake up the busy-busy, rush-rush, important-important, pressing-pressing character of our doings.  So be it.

 

A slow visual trip through the week

Three Kings Day celebration at Prairie Street Mennonite Church , Sunday 6 January.

Evening sky over Oliver Lake.

A remnant of Goshen’s Fire and Ice Festival last weekend.

As I was putting items in the recycling bin, this not-yet-hibernating squirrel came to see what I was doing, just as I was curious what he or she was doing.

Lunch Friday at Fisher Lake Inn, east of Three Rivers, Michigan, was cozy, tasty, friendly–what more could a body want than a spell in front of the fireplace. Salad, salmon, perch, walleye and broccoli were just right. Irish coffee for dessert.

Bridge north of Centreville, Michigan, on an off-the-beaten-path to Fisher Lake Inn.

 

A word on slow from the Apostle James

“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” The Letter of James 1:19

One more slow note: There’s a snake in the UK known as a slow-worm. That’s a misnomer. Sometimes called a Blindworm, it’s neither slow nor a worm. It’s harmless. We’ve seen a few on various footpaths in Cornwall.

Make haste slowly.

-John

‘Ring out, wild bells,’ as the New Year dawns

Featured image: Fresh snow on Cowles Bog.

Cogitation 1/179 Friday 4 January 2019   This is blog #179 since I started publishing Cogitations.

One by one I’ve posted a first draft of part of my week, shared a thought or two on the present with some reference to the past, and aimed for a word of hope for the journey ahead.

It’s good to have a fresh start in the New Year.

Past, Present, Future. Live it Now.

My shoe print on the Lake Michigan beach section of the Cowles Bog walk.

 

Ring out the old

The language is dated. The context more than a century old. Still, the sentiment rings true to the hour. That’s what I hear in this New Year’s quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892):

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, / The flying cloud, the frosty light: / The year is dying in the night; / Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new, / Ring, happy bells, across the snow; / The year is going, let him go; / Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out a slowly dying cause, / And ancient forms of party strife; / Ring in the nobler modes of life, / With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin, / The faithless coldness of the times; / Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes, / But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood, / The civic slander and the spite; / Ring in the love of truth and right, / Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease; / Ring out the narrowing lust of gold; / Ring out the thousand wars of old, / Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free, / The larger heart, the kindlier hand; / Ring out the darkness of the land; / Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Reaching back even further, I find a startling spark of truth in this statement of Francis Bacon (1561-1626): “Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity is the blessing of the New.”

Whether past time or current time, there’s no escaping time’s untidy and nasty sum of falsehood and dross.

Bacon again, “”Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.”  In other words, engage the day’s challenge positively, do what you can, be who you are, put a good breakfast to work, and at the end of the day face all that’s unfinished with the knowledge that adversity can be bathed in blessing. Bacon’s thought makes me happy for the Old Testament, too. It puts bad on the run.

 

The blessing of an end of year walk

This week we walked with friends on Cowles Bog, a part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, between Chesterton and Michigan City.

Laura Kraybill, Andrea Kraybill , Ellen and Nelson Kraybill, and Marty and I walked the almost five-mile Cowles Bog trail. Years and years ago, on New Years’s Day, the six of us had walked The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail from Middlebury to Shipshewana, Indiana, before its official opening. Here we’re pausing on the shore of Lake Michigan. Squinting, we could see a faint outline of Chicago’s skyline.

The partial US government shutdown meant I could not verify details about an evergreen tree at Cowles Bog in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Is it a jack pine? Why is this pine tree the only one of its kind left in this location? How did these pines get there in the first place? It may have had something to do with the last ice age, I remember from a guided walk ages ago.

Cowles Bog is a wonderful place to visit. It’s like stepping into an ancient time, where melting glaciers left their mark, here on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Thankfully, one of the pioneers in ecology and ecology of succession, Dr Henry Chandler Cowles, devoted time and expertise to study and preserve this 8,000,000-year-old fen (a fen is alkaline, a bog is acidic; Cowles Bog has both characteristics). Look it up online.

It was sunny, cold, and the three steep parts of the path were more challenging than the last time we had been there. Wonder why? Winter? Yes, but the many moons that have passed since the last time we went enter the picture, too. We’ll do the walk, and others in the area, again in different season. Food and coffee at Brewster’s Restaurant in New Buffalo, Michigan, capped a fine day out.

 

 

Roundup

Sign, west side of South Bend: NORTH/SOUTH CONTINENTAL DIVIDE

 

Among the wild ones at our new home in Goshen

 

Literary lives and who dun it?

Books I read this week. Would love to give a commentary, but space prevents doing more than a brief summary: Goldreich writes about a book club of six professional women engaged in the everyday drama of extended and close relationships, including their growing up years. Interesting read of their lives as foils of the characters in the books they discuss. Grimes, on the other hand, takes us to places in Cornwall that we know first hand. The mystery masterfully reveals characters, describes seaside settings, and finally solves a four-year-old murder and two that have just taken place. The Lamorna Wink is a cozy pub.

 

Walks to date

2018: 1,391 miles, 2,239 kilometers on foot.

1989-2018: 36,600 miles, 58,902 kilometers on foot;

Distance around the Equator is 24,901 miles; 40,075 kilometers. Appears we are nearing the half-way point of our second time walking the distance around the world. As of Thursday, I’ve a new pair of boots lined up.

Let’s go!

-John