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!

A lesson in teamwork atop a high tower

How simple and profound . . . making space in a sandbox to build the community now and for the future. It’s part of the fabulous Children’s Garden at the Wellfield Botanic Gardens, Elkhart. I can almost recall the sense of joy I had when my parents built a sandbox–and when they took us siblings and a cousin on a day’s outing to Lake Huron.

Cogitation 38/215 Saturday 21 September 2019 Doing maintenance work on an electricity transmission tower takes teamwork. That’s a lesson we observed this week.

On a walk we heard a helicopter and then saw it rise above a grove of trees. A person dangled at the end of a cable. In short order he was deposited on top of the steel tower, where two other workers were climbing a bit lower. The pilot ferried a fourth person to the top. Whatever maintenance task the team was “up for,” they did not dilly dally. No selfies, texting or tweets.

I couldn’t help but think that success in such endeavors takes coordination, cooperation, clear communication, trust, skill, the right tools, proper work gear, backup support, not to mention no fear of heights. Teamwork works.

I can imagine the team reviewing the day over a brew or a cup of tea. I see them–the pilot, the linemen, and any others–tipping their hats to each other and to people like us, beneficiaries of power that reaches the light switches and sockets in our homes, schools, businesses, offices, houses of worship. Thank you, high tower team!

Fitness, health & aquatics center now open

As part of errands and a walk in the City of Elkhart we saw the mostly completed BEACON Health & Fitness and Elkhart Health & Aquatics center in use in the vastly recast near-downtown Elkhart River District. The $80 million+ project anchors one corner of the district that will include at least two apartment complexes, shops, restaurants, and a new grocery store.

We’ve watched developments over the years, having lived close by, and laud the far-reaching efforts to reclaim downtown living, commerce, destination amenities, and enhancement of the surrounding parks and natural environment.

The BEACON Health and Fitness and Elkhart Health and Aquatics complex on the site of the former YMCA, and, in the day of water power, a glass factory. The area borders the confluence of the Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers. In the 1970s, I wandered through this area when it was a grown up wilderness, with maybe just a small glimpse of its gentrification.
This Martin’s was the grocery store where we most-often shopped when we lived close-by in Elkhart. It’s being replaced by a new store just to the north of the parking lot, on the eastern edge of the new Elkhart River District. We picked up a few groceries there on our walk, impressed again by the wide aisles, sprawling space, deli, cafe and coffee kiosk, pet shop, and other familiar areas. But with construction all around the store there were few early afternoon customers.
We enjoyed a walk in the Wellfield Botanic Gardens on north Main Street in Elkhart.

Closeups from the week

This grasshopper spent a few seconds examining the path on which we were walking, then flew on.
A male Monarch, identified by narrower vein-like lines than a female, and two black dots on parallel veins.
A female Monarch.
A seasonal scene in Mongo in LaGrange County. Tomatoes were $1 a pound.
Historic Nasby Dam on the Pigeon River in LaGrange County.
Harvesting seed corn in LaGrange County yesterday–21 tons per semi load. Teamwork at every level.
Snuggles decided to abandon her nap in the lilac bush to join the chatty humans sitting in the shade of the maple tree.

Let Autumn transmit its wonders, and adults act with children and youth to create a clime where happiness grows on trees and all life flourishes.

-John

What makes me happy

The squirrels in our yard have a taste for salad, specifically the petals of the Gerbera daisy. The Gerberas are into their third blooming, even as the squirrels are soon to be busy with burying acorns. Happy for that.

Cogitation 37/214 Saturday 14 September 2019 There’s more than the benefit of exercise that makes me happy from spending time out-of-doors.

Regular walks foster a deeper appreciation of the “wide world’s joy.” The quoted phrase comes from Henry Ward Beecher: “The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy.” The birds are happy, The trees and flowers and weeds are happy. People we meet and greet on foot are happy. Being close to nature makes me happy. How can I not be happy?

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) has a good word on happiness: “Thrice happy he who, not mistook, / Hath read in Nature’s mystic book.” I also value this word from Robert Louis Stevenson: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”

Of course, reading a book, sharing a meal, completing a task, gathering with people, tomatoes from Merle Sommer’s garden, watching the University of Notre Dame football team this afternoon, also makes me happy. Still, there’s no substitute for drinking in nature’s own vast ocean of happiness. I’m happy that among my friends and acquaintances I can count birders, walkers, kayakers, sports players, artists, gardeners, picnickers, patio sitters–good people, past and present.

My happiness quotient this week was fed by a variety of experiences, some detailed below.

A walk along the mill race

A week ago we walked from home to the Goshen Dam and then along the mill race trail to the Farmer’s Market. Goshen artists were out in force for the annual Arts on the Race event. There was lots of creativity on display, offered along with food and live music. It was a 7.5 mile day, in gorgeous weather.

Shoup-Parsons Woods

Another day we walked from home, through an edge of the Goshen College campus, past Goshen Hospital, to the Goshen Dam, and around the loop through Shoup-Parsons Woods. Sycamore trees below.

Pioneer burial ground

Coming across stories from the past gives me reflective pause and appreciation for those who have gone before.

On the way home from Shoup-Parsons Woods we came across the Dierdorff Cemetery, located on State Road 15 just south of College Mennonite Church. The story of the first burial there tugs at one’s heartstrings.

In the early 1830s, three German Baptist families were travelling with wagons and oxen from Philadelphia to Iowa. They were friends of Peter Dierdorff who also farmed in the Philadelphia area and who would later move with his family to Goshen, Indiana.

One of the German Baptist families recorded the ordeals of their trip: “Our trip was long and hard. . . . Our daughter, aged seven years, was never well, having contracted ‘consumption’ when she was very young. We got as far as one-mile south of the settlement at Goshen, Indiana. In the latter part of June, when our little daughter went into convulsions and died. Being encamped near a small knoll, we asked the settler who owned the land, a Mr. Cripe, if we could bury our little girl there. He said it was alright. So after covering Elizabeth’s grave with wild daisies, we prepared to move on westward. We were advised not to try fording the Elkhart River there: so, we went back to the Benton settlement, recrossed the river there and again headed west.”

Years later, in 1854, Peter Dierdorff and his family set out for Goshen with oxen pulling their wagon. They established the Dierdorff homestead on what is now County Road 27 (Dierdorff Rd). The family cared for the cemetery, established 1838, which was on the land they purchased, and made it available to the public for burial purposes. The family turned the cemetery over to the city after using the remaining monies in the maintenance fund for the stone that now identifies this pioneer cemetery.

The Dierdorff homestead is now owned by Greencroft Goshen, located on the south east side of the Greencroft campus.

“With awe around these silent walks I tread: / These are the lasting mansions of the dead.” George Crabbe (1754-1832)

A walk to breakfast

The day promised to be hot, so we left early for our walk to breakfast (5 miles round-trip) at Goshen Family Restaurant south of the city.

Junk Art Dogs, Nappanee

Dogs fashioned from junk dot the downtown of Nappanee where we had lunch on Thursday. The project was coordinated by The Nappanee Arts Council 2019. Creativity knows no bounds.

The elements show their wonder

Pouring rain, viewed from the shelter of our covered patio.
Full moon, Friday 13 September.

Be happy.

-John

Keeping fast with friends

Cogitation 36/213 Saturday 7 September 2019 Thankfully, relationships with close friends do not always go smoothly or last without cultivation. What? Thankfully?

Friends keep one honest, on track, resilient. In touch with our humanity. Through a friend we can face our vulnerabilities, be there, learn to listen, pay heed, laugh, weep, be accountable, make things right, see life beyond our own ken, nourish the soul.

Friends help us develop a strenuous honesty about ourselves; they help show up the soft spots and the hard habits that cloud our lives. Friends recognize and help us celebrate the strengths and gifts we bring to life’s journey.

It’s hard to define friendship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that friends do not sign a contract. They’re free agents, free to explore deeper meanings in the mystery of life. A work colleague once said you know you’ve developed a deep level of friendship when you can talk back, argue, even insult each other, without fear of recrimination. Aristotle defined a friend as “A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

The relationship between and among friends, then, really is not fraught with much rough going. Friendship means connecting, the other helping one get free of being root bound. Friends live out what is lasting. enlivening, uncharted, real. I like what Nicholas Grimald (1519-1562), in Of Friendship, said: “Of all the heavenly gifts that mortal men [women] commend, / What trusty treasure in the world can countervail a friend?”

Reconnecting with friends

Rules for Visiting, the novel by Jessica Francis Kane I mentioned in last week’s blog, zeros in on the life-affirming quality of friendship. The main character, May Attaway, 40 years old, is caught up in work as a botanist with a small team of groundskeepers at the university in the town where she lives. She’s hands-in-the-dirt, planning, planting, reflecting on the landscape of flowers, grass and trees. She says of her commitment, “To have an interest in gardens without gardening is like having an interest in food without eating.”

May is given a month of paid leave to use as she chooses. She decides to visit three friends from university that she hasn’t seen or been in touch with for a long time. She realizes she has become root-bound and ventures the hope that reconnecting with her old friends will rejuvenate her narrow confines. There’s uncertainty, her hesitation with life, but finally May resolves to use her paid leave to try and recover what has been lost.

I recommend the book. It sings in quiet elegance. You identify with the ordinariness and the sublime. The sketches of trees are a delight, as is their history. Toss in allusions to classical literature concerning life’s odyssey and you’ve got an engaging book friend in your hands.

The “Rules for Visiting” at the end of the book are what we already know, what May considers the essentials. They’re a welcome breath after vicariously traveling with May on her inward and outward journeys. Here are the 10 that can leap from the novel into real life:

  • Do not arrive telling stories about the difficulties of your trip.
  • Bring a gift.
  • Make your bed and open the curtains. A guest room is not a cave just because it’s temporary.
  • Help in the kitchen, if you’re wanted.
  • Unless you are very good with children, wait until you hear at least one adult moving around before getting up in the morning.
  • Don’t feed the pets.
  • Don’t sit in your host’s place.
  • If you break something, admit it.
  • Say good night before bed.
  • Always send a thank-you note.

May ends, “I have very few friends and not one of them is replaceable. May you settle and find good friends.”

A prayer for friendship maintenance

I value the sensibility that the writer of a prayer, Kathy Keay, brings to restoring friendships that have been broken. The prayer appears in The Complete Book of Christian Prayer (Continuum, New York, 1997). I know very little about Keay, other than she died in 1994 at age 40. Marion Osgood wrote a biography, Whatever Happened to Kathy Keay? I’ll have to look it up.

“Dear God, / Lover of us all, / do not let me go down into the grave / with old broken friendships unresolved. / Give to us and to all with whom / we have shared our lives / and deepest selves / along the Way, / the courage not only to express anger / when we feel let down, / but your more generous love / which always seeks to reconcile / and so to build a more enduring love / between those we have held dear / as friends.”

Friends and family

Moon over Oliver Lake, Sunday night. It’s not easy to be friends with the Man in the Moon, so we’re glad for the interaction we have with family and friends closer to home. We enjoy spending time with Marty’s siblings and extended family in LaGrange County, often meeting at sister and brother-in-law Mary and Gerald Miller’s cottage on Oliver Lake.
Putting along lazily with brothers-in-law Gerald Miller and Richard Mishler (green shirt). Marty, hidden.
Bee harvesting while it may. Bees, pollinators of all kinds, need friends.

Food for friends

On Tuesday we visited Orchard Hill Farms in Noble County. The Redfree was one of the two varieties available at the moment. The orchard will harvest 31 varieties in total during the season August to December.

One of Orchard Hill’s favorite recipe is for Apple Brownies: 2/3 cup canola oil / 2 cups brown sugar / 2 eggs / 2 cups flour / 2 teaspoons baking powder / 2 cups peeled, cored, chopped apples / 2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream oil, sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour and baking powder. Stir well. Add apples. Bake in greased 9×13 pan 30-35 minutes. Baking temperature not given, but 350 degrees should do the trick.

Pause with a friend

Greencroft Goshen retirement community has lots of green space across campus. One of those spaces is called Friendship Park. You can sit in the gazebo with a few others or by yourself, listen to the birds, breathe in the outdoors, feel the seasons change.

A male Monarch near our home is getting ready for a journey of thousands of miles. Just imagine, with a .026 ounce body, finding the way, not “done in” when clouds gather, passing on the genes. Long live the Monarch!

Lasting friendship

In and out of season–that’s all the time–you can rely on best friends. What a trip.

-John

Notes of thanks

Sandhill cranes on Perrin lake, Michigan. Spotted from a boat ride at the home of John and Jan Schwartz a week ago.

Cogitation 35/212 Saturday 31 August 2019 Three notes of thanks surface this week.

One. Celebration with friends

We had lunch with friends Maynard (Mike) and Phyllis Weaver on Monday. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this week. They live nearby, having moved to a condo in Goshen 15 years ago. We’ve been part of the same church, a small group, on-going friendship.

After lunch we showed them our home at Greencroft Goshen. Mike said he could live here. The green space in our back yard was immediately appealing, as was the single level, open plan layout of our home.

The green space would give Mike a chance to reconnect with his love of birding. His appreciation of the space also increased mine of the same. I’m still transitioning. I do marvel at the presence of mature oaks, the expanse of green and bordering trees and bushes. At the same time I miss the expansive riverside location we had for 42 years in Elkhart. Some called it a lake. We had a 2000 meter view upstream. Still, I am getting to appreciate nature’s out-of-doors setting right here in our new home. Thanks, Mike!

Mike has been a real friend. At a time when I was unemployed for an extended time, he was the one person who regularly asked, “How’s it going?” I think it was he who offered me a temporary job as sexton of Prairie Street Cemetery in Elkhart. Phyllis and Mike have enriched our lives as friends and mentors. They’re helping to smooth our transition to living in a new community. Thank you, Phyllis and Mike!

Also, thank you John and Jan Lauver Schwartz for a tasty, conversation-rich, and pontoon ride blessed family cookout a week ago on Perrin Lake.

Two. Classic car cruise-in and parade

Last Sunday afternoon Greencroft hosted a classic car cruise-in, followed by a parade around campus. It was fun. The weather was perfect. One woman said how much she appreciated seeing and hearing the cars that reminded her “of our era.” Thank you, Greencroft and classic car enthusiasts, for this memorable fourth annual event.

Three. Sears and retailers of yore

I wanted to walk through the second last full-fledged Sears store in Indiana. As part of a walk along the Riverwalk in Mishawaka, we visited the Sears store in University Park Mall. It is scheduled to close in November. Many shelves were empty, but new merchandise will come from the warehouses. Markdowns at the moment were from 10-30 percent, some more. The offerings include clothing, appliances, sporting goods, kitchenware, draperies, what have you, Sears had it. One salesperson has worked at that Sears store since graduating high school.

We rode the escalator to the second-level in search of a belt. Found it, bought it. Felt a sense of an era ending as we exited. We’ve had the same experience with other retailers, including Robertson’s, Drakes, Cooks, Grants, Montgomery Ward, Ziesel’s, Hudson’s, Marshall Field’s, Elder-Beerman and Carson Pirie Scott. In 1955, I had my first escalator ride at Montgomery Ward in South Bend, while visiting my aunt and uncle in Goshen. I bought a pair of denim jeans that time.

There are other retailers that I remember from my 50 years living in the city of Elkhart, it’s just that their names escape me at the moment. I know other people have similar “moments.” Not to worry. The names might return and if they don’t that’s O.K. for the moment, too. Oh happy day, I just recalled the name of a once-upon-a-time retailer in Elkhart that’s had me puzzled since last evening: G. L. Perry.

Thank you, salespeople, buyers, merchandisers, investors, service personnel, all those invested in providing for our interests over these many years. With some of you we were on a first name basis. Our spending was, I believe, more in line with our needs than our wants, though I did want that top hat I got at Ziesel’s when such were in vogue. It’s gone to the thrift store, as did a fine (classic) suit. I still shutter at the thought of the leisure suit I bought for a trip to Europe in 1975. I still smile with some appreciation for the era of bell bottoms. Moments.

I’ve kept a few ties, but gave more than two dozen to a quilter. Ties were part of more than half my life, as required wear at college and then throughout most of my working years. One year at college I paid another student to iron my shirts, 10 cents per shirt. Thanks a million!

This photo is from my early employment years, 1969 or 70, as a writer-editor in the Information Services office of Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, Elkhart, Indiana. It expresses my outlook on life: God is love. God loves all creation and seeks the well-being of the human species and every other species on Earth. We are newly aware of not only the dire straits we face in meeting the needs of humans and the needs of a nonhuman environment, but of our capacity to change to bring healing, hope and health to ourselves and the biosphere. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” I may still have the eyeglasses, but not the tie.

Bonus. Books from the library

Being the change (New Society Publishers, 2017) is the story of Peter Kalmus, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It’s the story of how he and his family made changes to lessen their carbon footprint. It’s challenging, heartening, not just pointing but jumping in the right direction for humans to live in harmony with the biosphere through acts of repentance and regeneration that brings healing and love for all beings. It reminds me of how our grandparents lived.

I’ll quote a subsection on Storytelling from his chapter on Community:

“It’s not enough to change our own lives. It’s not even enough to engage with the community. We must also be storytellers. Stories bind communities. They teach us, inspire us, and give us a way of making meaning out of the chaos of life. They direct our actions in powerful ways. Stories capture our imaginations, and global warming is the result of the greatest failure of imagination the world has ever seen.

“Every one of us can tell this new story of living aligned with the biosphere, each other, and ourselves. This is the story of leaving fossil fuels far behind. this is the story of connection, of seeing ourselves within the biosphere and not above it.

How you tell it is is up to you, whether through speech, song, poetry, or comedy; whether through teaching children, or running for office. But I can promise that no matter how you choose to tell the story, your first step will be to live it.”

Cheer up, I tell myself

I conclude this weeks reflections with a quote from Shakespeare’s Richard II: “Lay aside life-harming heaviness, / And entertain a cheerful disposition.”

-John

Power

Rain and wind swept across Oliver Lake Sunday evening a week ago, seen from Mary and Gerald’s cottage.

Cogitation 34/211 Saturday 24 August 2019 Last weekend the power of nature delighted me with deep thundering chords and stormy deluge. Within days parched grasses turned green again.

One of the green areas on the Greencroft Goshen campus.

Power of the human

We see and seek balance within a world of imbalance. Turbulent weather patterns are keeping people on edge. We’re informed, we just can’t get our heads around the reality of climate change–and the cavalier denial of the same–facing us.

For the record, I see the universe as a created order of continuity and change. With others of like faith, I “believe that God has created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and that God preserves and renews what has been made. All creation ultimately has its source outside itself and belongs to the Creator. The world has been created good because God is good and provides all that is needed for life.” From Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Herald Press 1995).

I cite that belief, given so much evidence to the contrary, to note that I have become increasingly aware that there’s so much more for people of all faiths to do to respect the natural order of creation. That’s a big order. Thankfully many are taking steps to care for nature more so than ever in recent history.

Still, the obstacles are right before our eyes. In The News in Cartoons, Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune captures the devastation going on right now with the Amazon fires in Brazil showing two leopards in the forest. One asks, “When will humans stop hurting the planet?” The reply, “”A leopard never changes its spots.”

I look for leaders who are aware of how their actions affect other people. Leaders for whom power leads them to take a broad , all-peoples-centered approach. I’m with Abraham Lincoln, in this quote: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Power (and beauty) of sun and wind

Beautiful sky in Elkhart County on Friday afternoon, 23 August.
The Amish know how to use the conserving natural forces of nature, as typified by this home in LaGrange County.
A resident on Oliver Lake in LaGrange County tends a marvelous garden. Power of persistence and pleasure and taste.

Power of plants

A green and picnic area on the Greencroft Goshen campus.
A wild bouquet from the garden of friends who came to dinner a week ago. Note the blackberries.

Power of science

It’s unlikely that I’ll read The Climate Report verbatim. It’s heavy, real, meticulous, comprehensive, covering the whole USA, naming the issues and pointing to solutions already underway.

Once every four years, since proposed by President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Global Change Research Program is mandated by law “to submit to the President and the Congress an assessment regarding the findings of . . . the effects of global change, and current and major long-term trends in global change.” this report was released to the Trump administration on November 23, 2018. The report “details the measurable impact of global warming trends upon not only the environment itself, but on human health and the American economy.” (Back cover note)

the report has no axes to grind. it’s a straightforward factual document that lays out what has happened, what’s happening and what will happen. I’ll quote only one item from the 12 Summary Findings.

Summary Finding 4. Actions to Reduce Risks: “Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaption efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”

It would be easy to throw up one’s hands in despair at the lack of leadership from the current administration that should be leading the nation. That I will not do. I’ll continue to think and act as much as possible in the community, nation, and world I’d like to be part of right now and, imaginatively, in 50-80 years.

This turtle moved slowly in the murky water in the Witmer Lake channel in LaGrange County . What would it tell us of its life and times?
This turtle surfaced off and on in the channel bordering the restaurant patio where we were sitting on Friday. May its offspring prosper.

Power of beginnings

One of the books I’m reading concerns the small group of people who immigrated here in the Early American Experience. Saddled with the issues and stresses of the known, these men and women in 1620 were pulled to a new/old world with the hope and opportunities of the unknown. Will write more on finishing the book.

The ship Mayflower that brought 130 people to America. Just about half of them died in the first winter of 1620-21.

The power of peace

“I told them I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars.” George Fox (1624-1691), on being offered a captaincy in the army of the Commonwealth, against the forces of the King, in 1651.

Power on.

-John

Treasured taste of a Danish . . . cucumber salad

The cherry tomato plants in a container at our front door are bearing fruit . . . and wonder, occasioning gratitude.

Cogitation 33/210 Saturday 17 August 2019 My bedtime reading this week included a couple cookbooks–a respite from history, mystery, biography, travel, and climate.

One of the books is a small 78-page volume, Danish Cookery by Susanne (Host & Sons Forlag 1950, 7th edition 1965). Browsing through it took me back to the late 1960s.

First a recipe, then the story.

Cucumber salad (Agurkesalat)

1 large cucumber
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
Black pepper to taste
Sugar to taste

“In Denmark a ‘large cucumber’ means one about a foot and a half long; but it is only about an inch and a half in diameter, has practically no seeds or thorns, and tastes like any well-grown cucumber.

“Wash and dry a large cucumber thoroughly. If it is a spring cucumber the green rind may be left on, but later in the season, when the rind is thicker and harder, it is best to peel the cucumber.

“Cut the cucumber into very thin slices with a sharp knife. Mix the water and the vinegar, and sweeten to taste. Add the cucumber slices and sprinkle with pepper. Let stand for an hour or so before serving. Lemon juice can be used instead of vinegar–this makes the salad healthier for children.”

Simple, innit? That salad first hit my taste buds on a ferry, crossing from Germany to Denmark in 1967.

The story

I was travelling for a month following a two-month-long student cultural/work exchange in Germany. I was one of a sizable number of students from Canada, the USA, and other countries working in a variety of jobs. Mine happened to be at the Hotel Excelsior Ernst in Cologne.

The trip to Denmark was with a few other students, including one from Copenhagen. We traveled by train and ferry. The smorgasbord lunch on-board the ferry included the cucumber salad of memory.

I don’t remember how I got the cookbook; it may have been a gift from the host family. They also gave me a tiny ceramic dish with the inscription in Danish, to the effect, “When you find a stone in your shoe, be mindful and grateful it’s not two.”

The meals I enjoyed during that brief visit introduced me especially to open face sandwiches, served on dark or light rye bread. Susanne said, “There is no doubt that Denmark’s open face sandwiches (smorrebrod) are the most famous feature of the Danish kitchen.” Give me a sandwich of Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg, or, Smoked Salami and Boiled Potato, or, the Hans Andersen (two rows of crisp bacon, 1/2 slice of liver paste, tomato slices, topped with scraped horseradish and a strip of jellied consomme), or, Tomato with Raw Onion, or, any variety of herring or shrimp.

I’d pass on some of the recipes in the book, such as jellied eel, curried eel, even fried eel with creamed potatoes. That hesitation harks back to the day when I bought an eel in a fish shop in Kitchener, Ontario and made less than a savory meal of it.

I do, nevertheless, take courage in Susanne’s encouragement in the Introduction to plunge into some of the less familiar recipes: “There’s always a chance . . . that you will not be sorry you tried them out. In any case it is generally through experiment that we gain our most valuable experience. If you agree, we hope that you will have fun and wish you a good appetite.”

Reflection

We’ve come to appreciate and enjoy the foods and customs of many cultures. What do we know and apply of their “recipes” for nourishing social interaction, individual community and country well-being and happiness, including making things right when harm comes to an individual or group?

I’m especially perplexed that we in the USA continue to think that capital punishment is a way to deal with the heinous crime of murder. Surely, surely, surely, we’ve learned lessons concerning not only prevention but treating even hardened offenders with sentences short of killing them.

The same goes for our response to climate change. The changes in weather patterns, higher temperatures, rising water levels are reality now and will hardly revert to an old normal of 70, 100. and 200 years ago. Already positive change includes developing and using alternate energy sources, planting trees as part of caring for the natural environment, implementing more sustainable food production, and much more. Surely, great minds the world over are up to the life-preserving challenge.

Scenes of the week

South Haven, Michigan

South Haven, Michigan. Same rose bush we saw four or five years ago. Day trip there on Thursday included getting blueberries, lunch, flying our Sprite kite, a visit to Black River Books, and Sherman’s Ice Cream Parlor.
On the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, one of five Great Lakes that hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.
Perch for lunch at Captain Lou’s Bar and Grill.
A Monarch butterfly gave us an air show and then went about it’s refueling regimen. These are rare sightings.

Defries Gardens, near New Paris, Indiana

Defries Gardens in River Preserve County Park, New Paris, Indiana, is part of Elkhart County Parks. This beautiful preserve includes plantings that follow the time of the year as much as possible to create groupings that bloom on that date. The summer display features prairie and wetland flowers, including echinacea, butterfly weed, Joe-Pye weed and asters, in succession. Photo gallery at flickr.com/photos/46211765@N04 . We visited Sunday afternoon.

Carry on. Smell the roses. Indulge in an ice cream now and again. Cook up something new. Let a butterfly transport you to a not so hidden world of wonder. Be.

-John

This critter cam crawling up my pant leg while we were sitting on the patio. Has yet to be identified. It’s an agile one.

Why did we move here?

On Tuesday evening we saw this hawk flying low over the Greencroft Goshen campus. Rodents beware.

Cogitation 32/210 Saturday 10 August 2019 Last November we sold our home and moved to Greencroft Goshen, a continuing care retirement community. The physical distance from Elkhart to Goshen is short (12 miles); the psychical measure is less precise, more like a pathway subject to the nitrogen flames that fill a hot air balloon.

From time to time I think about our move–some aspects of which are still in process. It’s not quite like an earthquake and its aftershocks. No, not nearly that. It’s a move we chose we planned, we made, knowing that we could have stayed in the home where we had lived for 42 years for some time longer. We also knew the change would open new options for a purposeful, more carefree and thriving life.

(Full disclosure: I worked at Greencroft Goshen, a not-for-profit CCRC for 10 years before retirement, almost 12 years ago). So, why did we move? There are the usual physical reasons, like not having to negotiate two flights of stairs as in our previous home–which we loved dearly, dearly. Or cleaning eaves, shoveling snow, and sundry such tasks–which we did faithfully and with satisfaction.

We were sitting on the patio having coffee and reading when a neighbor walked over and gave us gladiolas and tomatoes from his garden. Such a pleasant surprise. Beautiful. Delicious. Heartwarming. Years ago Rachel Carson said, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

What I like about a retirement community is just that: it’s a community within a larger community. We have freedom to divest ourselves from former things and invest in the greater non-material side of life. I came across this phrase this week: “With age comes a freedom and clarity about the things you love.”

What you can love with greater freedom and clarity in later life includes family, friends, hobbies, faith, nature, service–things that make a deepening difference in your life and in the lives of others.

With aging comes greater dependence and interdependence, not just some sort of change-resistant independence. I like that Greencroft is a not-for-profit CCRC, which means the programs and services are geared to the benefit of residents as stakeholders rather than for stockholders. Living freer of usual obligations of home ownership opens the window to common cause with others within a continuum of care. We are making our home here in independent housing and will have access to other levels of care as the need may arise.

The Greencroft campus includes a community center for use by residents and people in the larger community.
The Goshen News on Friday did a front page feature on the wild prairie proposed by two residents, Don Yoder and Gordon Cunningham on an almost 3-acre plot on the Greencroft campus. Animals and insects have taken up residence in the prairie. “We just wanted to get people acquainted with the outdoors,” the newspaper quotes Yoder, a retired landscape architect. There are around 26 different species of birds that regularly visit the prairie, according to Cunningham, a former docent at the Konza Prairie Biological Station in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The feature named five other local prairies, but missed the ones we walk by on the Goshen Collage campus. Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart offers another such prairie to promote a relationship between people and nature.
The care of residents for their garden plots is being rewarded with bounty.
Abraham Cowley (1618-1667): “The thirsty earth soaks up the rain, / And drinks, and gapes for drink again. / The plants suck in the earth, and are / With constant drinking fresh and fair.”

Art reveals one human story

Sign in the the South Bend Museum of Art in an exhibit, “Light Bringer: three artists, two continents, one human story.” We visited the museum on Wednesday as part of a delightful time visiting with our friend, Oscar Crawford, who came from Chicago to South Bend on the South Shore train for an afternoon of hearing, seeing, tasting–including lunch on the outside deck of The Emporium Restaurant, a walk over the bridge to the art gallery in Century Center, and, of course, a stop at the South Bend Chocolate Cafe for a drink and, yes, ice cream.
View of the St. Joseph River from the Century Center in downtown South Bend, Indiana–the city named for the southern-most bend in the river that stretches from Hillsdale, Michigan to St. Joseph, Michigan, where it flows into Lake Michigan.

Part of what I think about at this senior stage is how other people have invested in my life–parents, a long line of ancestors, the greater public, people of old, including the heritage and legacy of native peoples. I trust that with some degree of freedom and clarity of age I’m shaping a legacy of love for the young and unborn and the world they will inherit.

There’s a role for all to play

In a nutshell, here’s a word to Christians and people of other faiths on how to save the world. Honor creation, cultivate hope, discover new joy. I found the book on the environmental shelf at Goshen Public Library.

This week I read Climate Church, Climate World, by Jim Antal (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). Antal makes no bones as to what’s wrong with the world and the redemptive roles waiting for greater response by religious faiths. Jesus, he said, “offered us a building plan, not an evacuation plan.” In one of his sermons he quoted G.K. Chesterton. When asked what was the most wrong with the world, Chesterton replied, “I am.” We all have something to do to recognize, own and right the wrong.

I quoted Abraham Cowley in the caption above. Here’s another phrase to guide us in reducing our investment in both selfish behaviors and self-centered fear: “Fill all the glasses there, for why / Should every creature drink but I, / Why, man of morals, tell me why?” I take the qualifier phrase from Antal’s sub-chapter section, “Self-giving love in place of self-centered fear.”

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) spoke of an anticipatory psychical journey: “La, tout n’est qu’ordre et beaute. / Luxe, calme et volupte.” Everything there is simply order and beauty, luxury, peace and sensual indulgence. (liii, L’Invitation au Voyage. Sorry, I have yet to learn how to add the proper accent marks in a foreign language.

May order, beauty, fullness, peace and wonder in decisions, steps and musings, large and small, this week, fill our hearts and minds and hands.

-John