Author Archives: John Bender

About John Bender

Hi, my name is John Bender. I'm writing to help interested people cross bridges to and from the past. I like history. Stories from the past can shed light on life in the present. We've got a lot of living in the present to do. Let's do it!

My cup of travel overflows

Cogitation 45/222 Saturday 9 November 2019 The vastness of forests, mountains, hills, rocks, sky, rivers, lakes and ocean, and migration of butterflies and geese impressed me on our recent 5-week trip east, north, west and south (OH. PA, MA, ME, NB, NS, QC, ON, MI, IN).

Five-week, 4,034 mile road trip, mostly in October, took us to cities and towns noted on the map. Glad for our hybrid car that gave us a 600 mile range per tank of fuel, averaging 50 mpg.

The trip centered on interaction with friends and family to and from a visit to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. People interactions included catching up over meals, walks, birthday parties, and seeing the sights.

I’d say we saw more wilderness than cultivated land on our journey by car. We experienced the vagaries of weather, from Nor’easters, heavy rains, many tranquil splashes of sun, and a day of snow near the end.

Now at home, how do I summarize? Hardly by a recount of the political news we saw in the papers and on the telly. Hardly by condensing the too lengthy opinion pieces in the papers. Hardly by a treatise on the quality of the mattresses we slept on. Hardly by giving a step-by-step account of our drive, including the give and take between GPS and M.A.P. (I like the big picture a paper map gives and find GPS confusing at times).

Not even detailing the fine museums we visited (next week I’ll write about the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Maud Lewis collection). Not even by reviewing the books we bought or the variety of road signs we encountered.

So, what then? I’ll try to summarize how these various elements created a pleasing whole. A balance. A goodly sum.

Naturalist John Muir used the term, “beauty and bread” to describe what humans need. He wrote: “Everyone need beauty as well as bread, places to play in . . . where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul.”

I’ll transpose Muir’s order to “bread and beauty” and use food as the takeoff point for the “cups overflowing” summary of our experiences on the road.

I’ll start off with a cup of tea, Red Rose Orange Pekoe. The envelope says, “Your small cup can make a big difference. Votre petite tasse pourrait avoir une grande importance.” The package adds, “This product is packed in a zero landfill facility.” The Tea Council of Canada gives it four stars. And it’s Rainforest Alliance Certified. Wow, that’s a lot of freight in a small package.

Nothing like a cuppa to set the stage.

The goodness we shared

Lovely dinner in Frank and Evie’s home in State College, PA.
Frank, Evelyn, Marty in the State College botanical garden.
Sunday roundtable brunch October 6 with friends at Dock Woods community, Lansdale, PA, after church at Plains Mennonite Church. John, Marcia, Marty, Hubert, Mary.

New England clam chowder topped the meals along the North Eastern shore. We ate lots of seafood, but held off on “Market Price” lobster, except for a lobster roll and a mug of lobster bisque.

In Boston, we did have lunch, with other tourists, at the bustling Cheers, the exterior model for the old TV show by the same name. I must say the bean bowl was not my favorite meal of the trip, but I’m glad to have indulged. Same for the meal of poutine at Snack Bar D’Amours in Riviere du Loup, QC. They closed in early November, with this notice on the receipt: “Merci de votre commance. Bonne Saison 2019.”

Breakfast at Cindy’s Place in East Wakefield, NH, prior to leaf-peeping on the Kancamagus Trail. Cindy’s serves real maple syrup from Maine.
I confess, that was my breakfast at Cindy’s, stuffed French toast. Meals at home right now are on the lean side.
A scene from the Kancamagus Trail in White Mountain National Forest.
Kancamagus Trail.

The Curated Guide, featuring a selection of culinary destinations in and beyond Halifax, reveals we did find some of the recommended spots on our own. I did not have time to match the multiplicity of restaurants to the map while in Halifax. I’d be better prepared for another time.

Pizza at Salvator’s Pizzaiolo Trattoria in the historic Hydrostone district, was worthy of its “Best of” award. That was close to our small guest apartment. Twice we walked into the downtown and south end from our lodging in the north end.

The Hydrostone Neighbourhood in north Halifax, home to fine eateries, bake and coffee shops.

The bag of McIntosh apples from Stirling Fruit Farms in Wolfville, NS, (with other locations in the province and in New Brunswick) proved tasty, as did a bag of Cortlands, along with cheese, from the Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac in the Eastern Townships, Quebec.

The meal at an Indian Restaurant in Brockville with cousin Dale was satisfyingly spicy and tasty, as was the chicken dinner Dale prepared at home.

Cousin Dale showed us the area where he and friends kayak on and swim in the St Lawrence River at Brockville, ON.
Sun dogs visible from a drive along the St Lawrence Parkway near Brockville.

The meals at Wasaga Beach, Ontario, where my siblings and their spouses gathered for five days, too, are memorable, including those cooking all day in the crockpot, to food from the oven, stove top and grill. For his birthday meal Sandy chose a Chinese restaurant in nearby Collingwood. Scrumptious all.

Christa prepares breakfast for 10 hungry “campers.” The rest of us did an evening meal and provided snacks.
Mark did the grilling for breakfast.

Post Wasaga Beach: Vivian, with whom we stayed for two nights before heading home, made a wonderful meal for her immediate family to celebrate daughter Amy’s birthday.

Happy xx Birthday, Any!

A ‘rich soup’

I barely got going in reading The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley. Gooley is a master at using outdoor clues to find your way, predict the weather, locate water, track animals, and practice other forgotten skills.

I thought of Gooley’s observational skills as we coursed along highway and byway. One quote: “It is a balancing of strengths and weaknesses that will dictate the trees that come to color an area and in turn allow us to read the woods like a map. For example, if we are descending into a river valley and suddenly pass through a lot of sycamores and ashes, we can be fairly confident we have reached the floodplain. Sycamore and ash trees need very fertile soils, but tolerate wet conditions and so can make these valley floors their own, thriving where the water and nutrients get washed together in a rich soup.”

The evergreen has been leaning for a long time, exposed to the prevailing winds off Georgian Bay.

Gooley gives me a metaphor for summarizing our trip. We’re thriving on all the nutrients gained by interaction with dear friends and family, with nature, with countryside, towns and cities, with art and history, with regional foods, with extended time in the car, all “washed together in a rich soup.”

Now, what to do with the 5.7 kg (12.5 lbs) of pamphlets and papers that have been saved from the recycling pile? Plan another trip? Not right away, other than in armchair travel for a while.

Like John Muir, I think George Herbert (1593-1633) had a kindly view of humankind’s place within and for creation, not the pillaging that has been present since the Industrial Revolution. “For us the winds do blow, / The earth resteth, heav’n moveth, fountains flow; / Nothing we see but means our good, / As our delight or as our treasure; / The whole is either our cupboard of food / Or cabinet of pleasure.”

We can benefit humanity and nature immensely by taking up John Muir’s balanced view of our need to enjoy and care for the natural world: Again, “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in. . . .”

Natures healing and cheer, to paraphrase Muir, gave strength to my body and soul many times over. Especially was that true as we walked the Jordan Pond Path loop in Acadia National Park in Maine (3.2 mile, 5.1 km).

Jordan Pond.

I had spent the morning in Bar Harbor getting tests and prescriptions for a medical condition. The care of the medical staff and the afternoon walk unfolded as a spiritual experience, food for body and soul, beauty and bread overflowing, including being blessed with the grace of satellite navigation to correct our befuddlement in getting back to our motel as darkness fell, where we happily consumed takeout burgers from a nearby general store, along with chips and chocolate


Rendezvous, 2016 sculpture by Catherine Leva, France, in Fredrikton, NB, sponsored by the New Brunswick Medical Society to celebrate their 150 years 1867-2017. “Good health is the greatest possession of all / La bonne sante est notre plus grande richesse.”
Ferry crossing on the St Lawrence River at Reverie du Loup, QE.
Footpath in Knowlton, Eastern Townships, Quebec, home to author Louise Penny.
Dead trees on the Bruce Trail provide food and shelter for birds and insects. Standing tall!

May your travel cup, even, and especially, in your armchair, be full to overflowing.


OTR Wk 5: Cozy Chalet at Wasaga Beach

Cogitation 44/221 Friday 1 November 2019 On The Road Week 5 in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, focused on family. Could we survive, thrive, in this first almost week-long assemblage?

We gathered at a cozy cottage/chalet, prepared tasty meals, turned on the fireplace as needed, told stories, played card games, took walks, did day trips, connected with people locally, some shivered in the high wind and first snowfall, and celebrated birthdays.

Wasaga Beach lies on Nottawasaga Bay, leading off Georgian Bay, leading from Lake Huron in the Great Lakes.

At the start of the week, brother-in-law Murray celebrated 70 years and at the end of the week brother Sandy celebrated 80. Happy Birthday to both!

Brenda Mutter, whose husband Harold was a previous work colleague of two of my brothers, baked two apple pies for dinner at our commodious chalet. Delicious!

A week with siblings could easily become a tradition, but that’s a decision to be made later.

Bruce Trail

On Tuesday, 10 of us walked some paces on the Bruce Trail, four of us did 10 kilometers and Christa did 26 km. Christa is three-fourths of the way to completing the 900 kilometer (540 mile) footpath from Queenston Heights (near Niagara Falls) to Tobermory on Georgian Bay.

Christa and Mark have been on the trail since October 4, staying in their Hymer GT550, a cozy home on wheels. They park at Boondocker-registered homes, a membership program where people share their driveways for a night or two. Mark does some walking and maneuvers the vehicles and bicycles from drop-off to pickup point while Christa covers 25-30 km per day. Mark walked regularly the first three weeks until he turned an ankle. Bravo Christa! Bravo Mark!

Marty and I completed the trail, with Christa and Mark and a few others, over seven weeks of seven summers, finishing in 2007. Bravo!

This occasional sign tells you you’re walking in the direction of Tobermory. If it said Tobermory to Niagara, you’d be going the reverse direction. It’s a handy point of reference. White blazes tell you you’re on the Bruce Trail, and not some side trail or animal path.
Happy trails, friend.
From left, Willard (partially hidden), Joy, Murray, Christa, Kaye, Mark, Vivian, Marty, Sandy, me (John).
Wild apples on the trail. Sour, as expected, but worth the taste.
Mistake of the past–fastening a fence and barbed wire on trees. The trees overcame the human error.
Ridges and caves run alongside part of the trail.
Follow the white blaze painted on trees, the path your feet can feel, and you’ll not go wrong on the Bruce Trail.
The eyes and nose are buried in slumber.
Old style rail fence once probably divided ownership of property.
Christa, Marty, John, Vivian pause on the 10-kilometer section.
See the road that rises up and up? We’re closing in on our destination.
Mark waits in the distance to guide us the last 1.5 kilometer walk to the parking lot.
Pretty River in Pretty River Valley. Christa continued on for 13 more kilometers.
Intertwined trunks and roots remind one of family interconnections. Together we make sense of the world through stories of work, faith, inclusiveness, and courage to move on, remembering those who have gone before, including brother Brian and all of our parents in the extended family of siblings and spouses-in-law. Recently, both of Christa’s parents died, Gustav first, followed by Gerta a week later. May God’s comfort and love go with us as we keep in memory those who loved us.

Other shots

Joy and Sandy’s grandson, Geordan, spent the week with us. On the clearest day he rode his motorcycle for almost 500 km, circling through central Ontario. Among various sights he saw a baby moose. Geordan helped with meal preparation, washing dishes, tech issues. On Friday he joined the brave ones who walked in snow on the trail. A persistent cough keep me indoors. Bravo Geordan!
Brother Will walks along the sea wall at the home of Nancy and Paul, friends of Kaye and Murray.
Milou, a Coton de Tulear, enjoyed some of the Lasagna dinner.

Canadian flag

Canadian flag, flying at the edge of the bay at the home of Nancy and Paul, friends of Kaye and Murray.

The National Flag of Canada was proclaimed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on January 28, 1965. It was raised for the first time in an inauguration ceremony on Parliament Hill in February 15, 1965.

In 1964-65 I was doing an exchange visitor year in Germany. I had a letter from Barney Faber with a few details about his family of origin in Germany and a drawing of the proposed Canadian flag to replace the Union Jack in preparation for the country’s sesquicentennial in 1967. Barney was a traveler in a small area of south central Ontario, occasional hired help among area farmers, a collector of whatever, a raconteur, something of a loner, sidelined but sustained in local society.

From a flyer related to the city of Sackville, NB, I learned that the flag was designed by Dr George F.G. Stanley, long-time Sackville resident, professor of Canadian Studies at Mount Allison, University (rated #1 undergraduate university in Canada by Maclean’s 2019), and at one time Governor General of New Brunswick. Alan Beddoe, retired naval captain and heraldic adviser to the Royal Canadian Navy, was also involved in the design.

From the Government of Canada History of the National Flag of Canada website: “The flag is the symbol of the nation’s unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.”


For Mark, their weeks on the trail have been cozy and fun. They’ve put 3,000 kilometers on their truck. Getting used to their small house on wheels has been a cozying-up part of the experience, he said. Having access to showers this week has been a plus.

Christa said their experience on the trail has been “absolute freedom.” It’s the kind of freedom they had during 10 years of teaching at an international school in Germany. They interacted with people, entertained visitors, but did much on their own. Now, to go off for six weeks without chores and everyday drudgery has been so good. “We can do what we want to do,” she said.

Planning for the week with extended family did make her nervous, she said. Just imagine, you’ve spent weeks on the trail, often without seeing another soul, and then being confronted with a hungry, happy, holiday crowd; well, that’s a significant change of pace. Fortunately, the congenial group pitched in in various ways to make the week at the chalet work. Christa and Mark did beautifully with the breakfast preparations, including the birthday breakfast for Sandy, while the rest took turns preparing the evening meal and washing up.

I recall, 10 years ago, going for groceries after a week on the trail. It was culture shock. Cars bopped about the parking lot and people drove their shopping carts like tanks. I had come from a world of serenity in the wild to a war zone of weekend shopping frenzy. I can just imagine how Christa and Mark felt the day we arrived. Hope they miss us as much as we’ll miss them. Thanks, Christa and Mark!

First snow

On Friday, Christa, Geordan, and Will braved the first snow to walk 8.4 km on the Bruce Trail.

Meanwhile back at the chalet

Friday: Aircraft-like roaring winds incessantly drove waves toward shore of Nottawasaga Bay, leading off Georgian Bay. Breathtaking and beautiful. Marty, Vivian and John walked on a path near the bay.

And the birthday dinner

Friday night birthday dinner in celebration of Sandy’s 80th.

Memories. More stories to ponder and share. The road soon leads home. Distance we’ve walked this year to the end of October: 1,193.5 miles (1920.8 km). Best!


OTR Wk 4: ‘Culinary’ adventures on the road

Cogitation 43/220 Saturday 26 October 2019 How to eat right on the road? It’s both a challenge and a pleasure– with a dash of surprise thrown in.

Bites along the way

This “big enough for two meals” lemon tart came from an aroma- and eye-rich bakery near our rental apartment in the Hydrostone Neighbourhood of Halifax. In addition, we bought two samosas, again, enough for two shared meals, one paired with vegetable soup. I’d return to that shop in a flash; though grateful for the lingering memory.
In Fredericton, NB, we opted for an olives and feta cheese appetizer and split a meal of lasagna. Lovely!

Poutine finally found us

For a long time I’ve wanted to try poutine. On Tuesday evening at the Snack Bar D’Amours in Riviere du Loup, Quebec, we got (my) wish of a dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy.

I had planned to order a double salmon burger to share, with a side order of poutine. However, at the order counter, I said, in English, we’d like to order a double patty “saumon burger” to eat in rather than carry out. Before I could add a request for a poutine side, the order taker/cashier pointed to three sizes of boxes. I pointed to the medium one. Oh, a box for regular fries, no poutine tonight, I thought.

My French is rusty, truly rusty. I didn’t know how to ask for a clarification of the order. Order paid, next customer up. Only when “the box” arrived did the confusion become clear. We got a medium-size dish of poutine, without burger. Only then did it dawn on me how “eat in” could rhyme with “poutine.”

Moral of the story: be careful what you wish for, brush up on your French language, and be grateful you’ve had your fill of poutine for a long, long time.

Poutine is French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. It’s tasty, but can be too much of a good thing.

More about potatoes

I had never heard about McCains of New Brunswick until we stopped for gas at the Florenceville, NB exit. I asked the attendant about the Potato World Museum. It turns out that the local McCain family is the world’s largest producer of frozen potato products, with operations on six continents. So the French fry you may be eating in various countries around the world could be a McCain grown or contracted, and processed potato. This was a travel day so we did not stop to visit the Potato Museum.

The company also processes some green vegetables and juicy desserts and potato chips. We did make the most of a bag of locally-processed potato chips.

Annapolis Valley apples

In grade school I learned about the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, home to apple orchards. Today vineyards have joined the fruit growing region. We did a day trip from Halifax and picked up some Macintosh apples at a farm market. Had lunch in the university town of Wolfville and circled back to Halifax on mostly scenic back roads.

Macintosh apples sit on the cover of a feature literary magazine in a Sunday newspaper.

Feeding body, mind & spirit in Quebec’s Eastern Townships

Apples were part of the fruit bowl our Swiss chef and B&B host Peter prepared for breakfast Thursday. The gourmet breakfasts included an omelet one morning and a ham, mushroom and green onion crepe on Friday, freshly-made croissants and homemade bread and jellies. Peter and Yvonne welcomed us warmly to their Ancestral B&B, in Lac Brome (Knowlton), home of author Louise Penny. We enjoyed breakfast next to a sweeping fireplace and rest in a beam-ceilinged room of this former 1840 blacksmith shop. Historic, homey, hospitable. Enjoyable stay.
Breakfast by the fire at Ancestral B&B, 1840 former blacksmith shop, moved, renovated and enlarged over the years.
That’s a half, I repeat, a half order of mussels with fries (Divers Nourriture). Marty had the eggplant Parmesan (Aubergine) and salad, some shared with me. Dinner was at Le Relais in Knowlton. We often split a meal or do only two meals a day on the road.
Cortland apples grown at Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. We also bought cheese and chocolate made at the abbey. We visited this monastic community on Thursday for their daily 11am Eucharist and The Liturgy of the Hours. About 30 monks are resident there today. One senses this place of prayer and work is filled with harmony and serenity.
Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac figures in Chapter 3 of Louise Penny’s 12th novel,The Beautiful Mystery. Penny was home last weekend for the Knowlton Literary Festival, but a week later she was in Alberta. Via Marty’s connection on Facebook we learned Penny returned to Knowlton the day we left, with a signed copy of her latest book, A Better Man, a library copy of which Marty had already read before we left home. Now I’ll have the book all to myself, maybe.
Knowlton and a few area villages make up the town of Lac Brome. The area finds itself incarnated in Penny’s gripping novels featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, his family and a host of colourful, lovable village characters.

Penny, Honourary Patron of the Knowlton Literary Festival, in the event brochure, said, “The history of arts in our area springs from our culture of inclusion. Of French. Of English. Aboriginal. Of people from far away places seeking shelter and bringing with them their own histories and stories and beliefs. Their own art and culture. . . . At the risk of sounding too much like a cheerleader, Quebec is like nowhere else in North America, and the Eastern Townships are like nowhere else in Quebec. Bienvenue, eh.”

Basking in it all

We’re basking in our trek, about to enter our fifth and final week, this one in Ontario. We’re spending Friday evening and Saturday with cousin Dale in Brockville, on the St Lawrence River.

The time away tops out in people contact, supplemented with galleries, museums, fall colours, foods, walks. Rich!

Thankfully, we’ve been able to cover 103.5 miles (167 km) on foot so far in October. Our Hyundai Ionic Hybrid has been averaging more than 50 miles per gallon (81 miles per km).

On Sunday we’re headed to Muskoka lake country, spending overnight in Orillia, home of the late humourist writer Stephen Leacock. For the rest of the week we’ll be part of a party of 10 siblings and spouses who will be sharing a large home on Georgian Bay. We’ll walk, take turns preparing the evening meal, gather round the table for games, share stories, snack, and celebrate a milestone birthday for my oldest brother, Sandy. The journey leaves no hunger unattended.


OTR Wk 3: Boston to Halifax

Cogitation 42/219 Saturday 19 October 2019 Art aptly captures the human spirit. That’s a topic I touch on in photos in this week’s “On The Road” account.

The major pleasure of this road trip has been time spent with relatives and friends. That’s a highlight, a profound privilege, deeply anchored in communicating face-to-face. There’ll be more connecting with family and friends as our trip continues.

The change this week, though, has been a visit to Acadia National Park in Maine and travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The main part of our visit to Nova Scotia has been to bone up on folk artist Maud Lewis at the Nova Scotia Gallery of Art in Halifax. .

Let the photographs tell the tale.

‘Till next time

Our great-niece Jenny and her husband Rory were super brave and totally hospitable hosts in providing for us royally in a week-long stay in their home in greater Boston. Jenny’s mom and her husband also joined us for most of the week. Jan served as our guide to Boston since she had visited often before. Jenny and Rory filled in the rest of the time for color and seaside village tours. tours, Such good times are to be lived–they can not be canned. Rory’s mother is a folk artist and we saw and learned more about her intriguing work of people, landscape and animals..
An art piece by Rory’s mother, Anna, on wood and raised-metal.

Maine calling

How sweet it was to be free of crowded freeways as we traveled north and east to Canada.
Cruise ship in harbor at Bar Harbor, Maine..
Our two-hour walk around Jordan Pond on Mount Desert Island (Acadia National Park) proved a highlight in terms of views, weather, variations on the path., and the gloriously evocative call of loons. We visited here years ago and first heard the loons then. This is only the second time we’ve heard them , as though they’re calling out, “Where have you been so long?”
The rocky section surprised us after covering more than half the distance on the flat, but we were rewarded with a lengthy boardwalk as we neared the the end of the 3.5 mile trail.

Blueberry field in Maine

Maine is the world capital for blueberries, a farmer told us at a lunch stop. I’m glad, because my single pancake was packed with berries. The bushes are kept low to facilitate machine harvesting.
On the road in Maine to cross to Canada in New Brunswick.

Saint John, New Brunswick

Overnight in Saint John, New Brunswick. More cruise ships.
New Brunswick also claims to be a bountiful cranberry producing province. Saint John has created a wonderfully convenient cranberry-coloured footpath to the old city, a half hour walk from our commodious Homeport Historic B&B, built in 1858 by a ship building family.
Our travel to Halifax on Thursday was almost all in driving rain. Marty drove and I navigated and snapped pictures.

Maud Lewis, beloved Nova Scotian folk artist

In 2017 the feature film, Maudie, was released. It centers on the story of Maud and her husband Everett Lewis, less on Maud’s art. The docu-drama is one of four that will be shown in the Lifelong Learning Institute of Elkhart County in November. On November 12, at Greencroft Goshen, I’m responsible to introduce the movie and lead the discussion after the showing.

The legacy of Maud Lewis is preserved in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. Despite a hardship-ridden life, Maud found joyous expression in painting. She always had a smile on her face, our guide said.
Maud and her husband Everett lived in this tiny house in Marshalltown, a rural area west of Digby in south western Nova Scotia. Everett, a fish paddler, was not inclined to install electricity or running water. Maud painted every surface she could in the home and painted the world she saw and imagined from her post by the window.
Maud completed one painting per day. See her story online, or in the movie, Maudie. She was born in 1903 and died in 1970. Maud’s paintings sold for $2-3, later for $10 after she was featured in a national weekly magazine and on TV. Commissions brought in more money, though the couple lived without electricity or plumbing their entire lives. Everett was not the kindest or model husband, quite the contrary, through Maud made the most of her independence, happy disposition and creative vision. US Vice President Richard Nixon’s office commissioned two paintings and Maud agreed to do them, provided she was paid up front. One of her paintings was donated to the New Hamburg (Ontario) Thrift Store. It sold online to an anonymous buyer for $45,000. Maude is quoted: “I ain’t much for travelling . . . as long as I have a brush in my hand and a window in front of me, I’m all right.”
The house door, painted on both sides.

Autism Arts

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia sponsors art classes for children and youth ages 6-22 on the autism spectrum. Here are some samples of the children and youth’s work, underscoring that the key to expression is art.

Smile. Be happy.


OTR Wk 2: Boston, Nor’easter, leaf peeping

Getting around can be a challenge in this day and age, given all the four-wheel vehicles on the road. This Penny Whistle bike is in a bike shop in Lansdale. PA. The age of motoring is scarcely more than a hundred years old.

Cogitation 41/218 Saturday 12 October 2019 From Boston to Rockport, (MA), to a color tour in New Hampshire, On The Road, Week 2, proved movingly first rate.


We stayed in suburban Boston with great-niece Jenny and her husband Rory, along with Jenny’s mom Jan and husband John. Jan and John, Marty and I walked the 2.5 mile (4 km) Freedom Trail that features 16 locations that played a part in the City’s Colonial and Revolutionary history.

Iris, ready for toss ball, or something similar. “She owns us,” Jenny says.

We had a nice lunch at The Green Dragon Tavern, opened in 1657. Proprietor John J. Somers’ place mat message: “May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies, quick to make friends, but rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness, from this day forward. Slainte!”

Green Dragon Tavern. Its New England Clam Chowder’s so fine. I admit, another day I enjoyed a bowl of Boston Baked Beans.

We walked through the narrow streets of row houses of Beacon Hill, bordering Boston Common and Public Park.

Beacon Hill.
Jesus and the Children c. 1904, one of 16 Tiffany windows of Arlington Street Church. Visit at
Marty at the Boston Marathon Memorial on Boylston Street, where three people lost their lives and 264 were injured April 15, 2013. This memorial honors Krystle Campbell, 29-year-old runner with the inscription “All we have lost is brightly lost.” A second memorial, nearby, to Lingzi Lu, age 23, Martin Richard, age 8), and two police officers, has the inscription: “Let us climb, now, the road to hope.” The memorials were dedicated in August 2019.

Rockport, Massachusetts

We encountered a real Nor’easter wind on Thursday in Rockport. Our walks were cut short by the driving wind, but the day was filled with a fine seafood lunch, sashays through shops and a mandatory stop at Tuck’s Candy Factory, “Famous Since 1929.” So fine in 2019.

Rockport, Massachusetts, (not Maine). Maine comes next week.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

This 34-mile-long highway through the White Mountain National Forest is rated one of the best leaf-peeping regions in New England. We did the tour on Friday, Perfect.

Changes in transit

The New Haven (CT) Trolley Line operated from 1860-1948. This trolley was parked at our motel in East Haven where we stayed Sunday night. We did not take time to visit The Shore Trolley Line Museum in East Haven, home base for operation of the last remaining 1 1/2 miles of the line. We were bound for Boston on the interstate system organized under President “Ike” Eisenhower.
We took the train into Boston from our suburban home-stay with Rory and Jenny.

Journey on.


On the road, week 1

Butterfly garden in State College, Pennsylvania.

Cogitation 40/217 Saturday 5 October 2019 Travel is fun, even when heavy traffic, road construction, adverse weather conditions, and weariness enter the picture.

One is grateful for new vistas, safe arrivals, and precious interactions with people.

Just like the cream that rose in the bottles of milk from my grandparent’s Jersey cow, many, many years ago, visits with friends, old and new, in their home communities brings the joy of travel to the very top, separating out the best part of the batch.

Such was the first leg of our multi-week trip to north eastern USA, parts of Atlantic Canada, and Ontario. Henceforth, week 1.

Ohio, Interstate 30

We left home in Indiana on a foggy Monday morning and stayed overnight at a motel in Ohio, en route to State College, Pennsylvania.

Late bloomer greeted us at a rest stop along US 30.

Pennsylvania, Route 80

Tribute to the Seneca Nation at a rest stop near Sharon, PA.
How sweet it was to get off traffic-heavy US 80 and find our way to lunch in the village of Foxburg, PA.
View south of the Allegheny River from the Allegheny Grill. We shared a lunch of salmon and salad, complemented with a chocolate and espresso from a nearby chocolate/coffee shop. No time for the winery. On our way rejoicing.
We’re on interstate 80, either at or near the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Fall is making its appearance.

State College, PA

We’re taking in the scene on a walk in 80 degree weather with friends Frank and Evelyn Pope in State College. We covered 8 miles by the end of the day, including a stop on campus at the Creamery, a famous ice cream shop. Rules: one size, no mixing flavors.
I think this is a view toward Mount Nittany from one of our walks in State College.
From The Snetsinger Butterfly Garden at Tom Tuder Memorial Park, dedicated in recognition of the volunteer service of Robert “Butterfly Bob” Snetsinger, PhD, 2011.
View across campus from the entrance to the university’s botanical garden. Garden blooms and vistas below.
A wedding venue overlooking Nittany Valley.
Leaving State College en route to Lansdale, PA.

Landsdale, PA

A path through the woods at Dock Woods Retirement Community where we are staying with long-time friend Marcia. We had dinner with a number of Marcia’s friends and also had lunch with long-time friends Hubert and Mary. The hours have been filled with fine food, laughter, reminiscing, a bit of commiserating on what it means to grow deeper in our encore years, more stories, more laughter, a special birthday party last night.
Hickory nuts, hickory shells, overlooked by a walnut. Hubert said he has enough hickory nuts to keep him cracking all winter.
A tasty sliver of cake complemented the extraordinary meal with family for friend John’s 80th birthday party. We’ve covered many miles with the Parker family for more than 40 years, coming to learn that friendship knows no end.
John Parker surrounded by grandchildren at his milestone birthday party. Delightful crew.
Wreath that Marcia and her daughter Lisa crafted, among other decorations, on Marcia’s front porch.

This morning we had scrambled eggs, bacon and an English muffin for breakfast. Marcia had some preserves from the Small Batch, Big Taste company. One was Habanero Honey Peanut Butter. It’s an interesting mix of two strong flavors with the mildness of honey. I like it; I like its intensity, even though it would not be my every-day-go-to breakfast staple. It will not put marmalade, blackberry and strawberry jam out of business.

Time for another coffee.

That’s a slice from Week 1. Next destination: Boston.


There’s a new day dawning in US politics

We were glad to be part of a surprise birthday party for a great-niece, Melissa. I remember 30 awe-fully well.

Cogitation 39.216 Saturday 28 September 2019 There’s a new day dawning in the USA where the two main political parties will again be on course to serve the common good.

Such is the conclusion I draw from a very recent book by Stanley B. Greenberg, RIP GOP: How the New America is Dooming the Republicans (Thomas Dunne Books, September 2019).

From polling, focus groups, and experience in advising presidents, prime ministers and CEOs, Stanley Greenberg sees a New America not only dawning but already here.

From the Introduction: This New America “is ever more racially and culturally diverse, younger, millennial, more secular, and unmarried, with fewer traditional families and male breadwinners, more immigrant and foreign born who are more concentrated in the growing metropolitan areas, which are magnets for investment and people. The New America encompasses a vast array of family types and working families in which both the men and women face growing challenges. The New America is ever more racially blended and multinational, more secular and religiously pluralistic. The New America embraces the country’s immigrant and foreign character. It now includes the college-educated and suburban women who want respect and equality in a multicultural America.”

The Republican Party has set itself up for a shattering defeat in the 2020 election. The groups that make up the Trump base will keep on pursuing their ends. However, the way the New America fought back in the 2018 election will dominate in 2020. By contrast, in 2020 the party of Lincoln will face “electoral defeats and fractures that allow the Republican Party to be renewed and win again.” Greenberg chastises Democrats, too, for losing sight of common people. He describes how they are on track to win the right to serve working-class people again. Eventually, representatives of both parties will come to a point where they work across the aisle for real people, all people, in their constituencies.

I hope my truncated summary whets some appetites to check out the book at the library, as I have, or even to buy a copy. The chapter titles are telling: The New America / The GOP Counterrevolution Against Multiculturalism / The Tea Party-Trump Decade / President Trump’s GOP in Battle / The New America Strikes Back / Is This All They Have to Offer Working People? / How Did Democrats Let Donald Trump Win? / After the Crash.

The book helps me see hope beyond the current state of affairs in USA politics. There is a happy ending ahead, Greenberg writes, “and that’s none too soon for all of us who’ve had enough fighting, enough division, enough politics. This time the end of politics portends a country united and finally liberated from gridlock to address the nation’s most serious problems.”

The book, with footnotes, runs to 328 pages. It includes plenty of graphs for those inclined to muse over the research data. I come away hopeful, encouraged, optimistic almost tasting goodness in all that’s in store for this country.

First week of autumn

The breeze had these leaves chasing each other in a vortex-like circle.
St Joseph County, Michigan on Friday..
LaGrange County, Friday.
Long-awaited rain in LaGrange County, Friday. Amish make up close to half the population of the county.
Changing colors along Greencroft Blvd, Saturday.
Glorious greeting along the Goshen Millrace Trail, Tuesday.

Can you hear me?

People with hearing loss may be at a loss for words at all the help available right now.

Audiologists, a hearing loop professional, vendors, and staff of the Hearing Loss Association of America Michiana Chapter and the Hearing Life Committee of Greencroft Goshen came together for a conference at Nappanee (Indiana) United Methodist Church, Living Well with Hearing Loss, September 28.

As a person without significant hearing loss, I was challenged by the testimonials of people who said their lives were changed when they first experienced a public building equipped with a hearing loop. Such systems allow people with telecoil (T-Coil) equipped hearing aids to communicate clearly in noisy environments. Todd Billin, president and engineer of Hearing Loop Systems, Holland, Michigan. said T-Coils are making their way to many small and large areas in the US as the preferred way of fulfilling the needs of the hearing impaired.

Keynote speaker Juliette Sterkens, AuD, told the group that public buildings are required by law, since the American Disability Act of 1990, to have an assisted hearing system in place, just as for ramps and Braille signage. While not required of religious gathering places, it behooves those places to provide the service, too.

Hearing loss is often an invisible disability, Sterkens said. After her church installed the T-Coil system, one woman came to her in tears and said that was the first Sunday in 20 years that she could hear the sermon. Sterkens’ efforts have led to more than 730 loop installations in Wisconsin, including more than 400 places of worship around the country.

Audiologist Sharon Hirstein is an advocate for Looping public venues in the Elkahrt area. She addressed, “Understanding Hearing Loss: What’s New in Hearing Aids.” She noted that almost all new aids are equipped with a T-Coil. She said hearing aids can make up only half of a person’s hearing loss, though today’s technology can deliver speech or music as though the sender were sitting on your shoulder.

People tend to complain about their hearing aids, yet once they are assessed by an audiologist they’re on their way to an all-around improved quality of life. The presenters underscored that one should not self-diagnose a solution or order a hearing aid online. The services of a professional are the surest way of living well with hearing loss, both hearing aid users and presenters said.

A glorious day to you.