Last Year and Today….a combined story from early 2019 and early 2021, with some thinking in between.

Watching the movie “First Man” yesterday about Neil Armstrong’s life, and about America putting men on the moon was a stark reminder of where we have been as a country, as opposed to where we are now.

The strength, resolve and focus that we had as a country to go to the moon…to beat the Russians in our space program, was something which inspired and united us as a people. I know there were a few detractors who protested about the money being spent on that program, and that protest was addressed in the movie.

Overall though, it was a matter of togetherness that included most Americans. Was there a black astronaut at first? A woman? No there was not. I do firmly believe however, that the overall encompassing reach of the program, on all levels…not just the men who composed the crews, led to more inclusion, faster than in other areas of our countries culture.

I know that as far as me personally, the space program was a part of my childhood, which I cannot separate from my psyche. It was an excitement, and an interest from the days of Sputnik and Telstar, all the way through the Mercury program, with pictures of Alan Shepherd and John Glenn taped to the headboard of my bed, right next to JFK’s and RFK’s. It continued through Gemini, with all its tragic deaths….finally into the Apollo program. My favorite photo of all time was from Apollo 8, the first photo of our beautiful blue marble hanging out there in space, like the last gorgeous Christmas ornament hanging lonely but divine on the tree being taken down for the year.

I think perhaps my somewhat obsessive need to photograph the moon, and watch the skies, stems from my childhood wonder with putting men into outer space.

Paula and I were more amazed than ever before about our ability as human beings to do such hard and complicated things with such “primitive” equipment.  Now that we have increased our technical knowledge so exponentially we should be able to perform miracles.  Maybe, we have indeed done so already in our creation of two new “types” of vaccines which we have never had before for this deadly disease which is disrupting our world and killing so many people.  Such brilliant technology for use here on Earth, inside the “outer space of our inner bodies”

I hope all of this will one day lead to our exploration of our Universe.  I hope mankind can get past our unsavory nature and evolve into people who can love and respect each other.  Can we get past the point where we want to kill each other and focus all of that energy on loving each other?  If we can ever do that, there’s no limit to the miracles we can create.

I love the sunlight coming from the West. I’m not really totally sure of the reasons. It could be that my bedroom window in my parent’s house on 9th Street was facing the West. A lot of times as a kid, I’d come home from school and lay on my bed to do my homework. Sometimes I’d drift off to sleep, with the soft low light seeping in through that window, like some syrupy sleep potion. I’d dream sweet dreams about the future, about love, about sorrow. Wonderful dreams, none of which I now can remember. Fall naps on school days. Winter naps on weekends. Simmer was for fun, so there was no time for naps then. Fall sunshine was my favorite. After all the leaves had fallen. I remember being able to look out that high window by standing up on my mattress. I loved to watch the cool winds of Autumn blow through the giant Magnolia tree that grew just outside, and watch those huge brown leaves tumble. I loved those solitary minutes that I was able to steal, as the Western sum light filtered in through that window.

At at our old house on Elm street, our living room had one window which faced West. I used to sit in my recliner many days, especially after 2011 and doze off in the evenings and daydream. In the Fall when the sunshine was “just right” it gave me a feeling of comfort and sometimes even euphoria to have the sweet sunshine lull me. I know, it sounds crazy…but it’s true.

It never happened to me while we lived in Mom and Dad’s old house on 7th street…in the two years we lived there from 2009 to 2011. The windows just weren’t in the right position. I did take quite a few naps with baby Rue and baby Eli there though…..just like I’ve napped with Evie and Ellie since then.

Since we moved from the old house to our place here in Ringgold, I haven’t had as many episodes of the “western light daydreaming” as I used to. We’ve certainly got plenty of light coming from the West though. Especially during the late Fall through early spring, when the leaves are off the trees.  The setting sun comes in the window every day and bids me goodbye and goodnight.  Maybe I don’t daydream as much because I’m getting older.  Maybe it’s because I have just “used up” all of my good daydreams.  Whatever it is….I miss them and hope that one sweet day, I’ll be sitting here looking out to the West and start to doze off…..

Losing my Voice

I remember very well when I lost the majority of my voice. It was in 1982, and I was working for Zee Medical Service selling first aid supplies. It was July, and the company was having an “event” in Atlanta at a hotel. I got an unusual sore throat which quickly developed into the worst pain I had ever had in the throat. Felt like I was being stabbed in the vocal cords with a needle. I got hoarse and then totally lost my voice. The pain lasted a couple of weeks, but the hoarseness in my voice lasted months. I didn’t think it would ever get back to normal. I could talk, but if I tried to sing it was terrible. No higher register, and cracking all the time.

I couldn’t sing, so I started writing songs. I worked out a melody on the guitar and recorded it on a little cassette player so I would not forget them. Words once written are in stone, but melodies are as elusive as butterflies on the wing. So I “netted” them and once the song was finished I kept the hope in my heart that I could find someone to sing them on a demo for me. My daughter was really coming along on her singing and I had an idea that she could do it. One day early in 1985, I was riding down the road singing along with the radio, and I was able to carry a tune again. Gradually I regained part of my voice. I was able to sing again and went on to sing on some of the demos I occasionally post here. What you hear is about half of what I once could do. I finally went to a specialist in 1999 when my voice started bothering me again. He found a big lump on one vocal cord, and was pretty sure it might be cancerous. I had surgery, and he found that it was a big lump of scar tissue. Having messed with it again caused me almost another year of being unable to sing, but I eventually got my singing voice back…but again further diminished. I am convinced that whatever I had in 1982 caused that scar.

Nowadays, if I talk a lot or sing a lot it’s somewhat painful and it takes several days to make a comeback. Back when I was going to Church they always wanted me in the choir, and I would sometimes go…but I guess nobody realized the problem I had even though I made it known. I have some days or weeks now when the old singing voice is ok, and some weeks when it is weak. Much as I wanted to be a singer and still love it, I just couldn’t take the strain of a run at “America’s Got Talent” even assuming I was good enough. Quite honestly I give thanks for the ability to sing along with old Bing Crosby, or Keith Whitley from time to time. That’s still a pleasure and I’m danged happy with that as things stand.

An Ode to Pockets

I love pockets, I have always loved them. The need for pockets came about during the Middle Ages when people had a need to keep their coins somewhere. At first they started putting them in bags and hanging them around their necks. They wasn’t good, because it was easy for some “cut purse” with a sharp knife to cut the string and steal your money. Then people started carrying their “purses” inside their pants so the thieves couldn’t get to them. Problem with that was when you went to pay for something you just about had to take your pants off. People started cutting slits in their pants so they could get to their purses…and from there some smart person figured out that “sewn in” purses or “pockets” would be a dandy idea. This was sometime in the 1700’s. This was a great invention!

I recollect being about 4 the first time I realized I had pockets. I was out in the front yard around the porch and noticed the little bugs we used to call “rolly-pollys” I had caught a double handful of them and having no other place to put them…I shoved some down in my pockets. Of course, I didn’t get them all out…so I heard from Momma on that one! From then on though, pockets were for everything.I have pockets full of rocks, marbles, worms, crickets, bugs, arrowheads, marbles, coins, clover, grass, lightning bugs, and just about anything else you could get into a pocket. If I go to buy a pair of jeans, or pants I’m going to wear every day the first thing I will check out is the depth of the pockets. I don’t like shallow pockets. You sit down on the couch, or in a chair and lean back a little bit and when you get up there will be a bunch of stuff there that has “oozed “out of your pocket. I don’t like losing my stuff, so I check my pants out really well before I purchase.I have had some important things in my pockets before too. I put mine and Paula’s wedding rings, which were in those little black ring boxes, one in each pocket. I have carried an old pocket knife which Dad gave me in my pocket, before I put it up because I was afraid I was going to lose it. (I put a tiny piece of marble from Greece in my pocket and I can’t tell you what famous building up on top of a hill from whence it came…so shhhhh.) There have been other things…I’ve also, at times gotten holes in my pockets and have lost things…mostly change. I’ve lost a ring or two that I had put in my pocket and they just slipped right out, and down my leg and into the grass of “neverwhere” where they probably remain today. But I’m pretty careful.

I worked with a man over in Calhoun, named Max who I never, ever saw wear anything but overalls. He loved those pockets and had something specific for each of them. He passed away unexpectedly one year while I was still there and they buried him in his overalls with a John Deere hat on. I think it was one of the most appropriate uses of clothing I have ever seen. He would have loved it. Well, just to show you that I do “practice what I preach” in this case, I dumped out the content of my pocket and posted it along with this little story. As you can see, I had just a few things squirreled away in there. Whenever I go to the Drs. Office and they weigh me, I always mentally knock off ten pounds for “pocket contents and clothing” I guess when I quit carrying stuff in my pockets it’ll be a sad day

Goin’ Up to Cripple Creek…

I pick up my guitar and strum a few chords. Try to come up with a melody or a run of chords which makes sense or sounds good. I don’t devote as much time to musical pursuits now as I used to, perhaps as I should. Time’s not my friend in this arena. I think back to my Grandpa at times.

He had arthritis in his hands as far back as I can remember. Being born in 1893, he was 57 years old when I was born…67 in 1960 where my memories of his banjo playing start. The arthritis hampered his playing but I remember some of the tunes: “Cripple Creek” “Home Sweet Home” “Swanee River” many more. I tried the banjo, but it never made sense to me…I was lucky to be able to learn to play the guitar. Grandpa wrote songs too. He had two hymns published and I have the songbooks where they are sitting there on the page in black and white. I’ve never sang them, but I should. Mom always wanted me too, but for some reason I never got around to it. I regret that.

Grandpa was a talented, but strange man. I don’t ever remember him wearing anything but overalls except on Sundays. He kept his wallet in the top center pocket and would get it out and count his money at least once a day. He had his pocket watch in the “watch” pocket of those overalls and checked it quite often. It was a good watch….I’m sure one of my kin got it, but I don’t know who. At one time he owned a lot of land up where he lived at, but by the time he died, he owned practically nothing and didn’t know who or where he was. He gave me the greatest gift that I could ever receive though, right there out on his clapboard front porch, and that was the gift of music….the gift of the love of music.

It was not only the times I watched him sing and play, and the times I sang with him, but the sheer amount of time he would listen to his little AM radio. It was the times he would take our his hymnals and practice for the upcoming Sunday for hours. I had nothing to do on rainy days at his house. No TV, just the books and the radio. So I listened to a lot of hymns and a lot of country music. I think I cut my teeth on one of his hymnals…literally..as I lived at Grandpa and Grandma’s house until I was past two years old. Chewed one of them up I was told.

A lot of times when I get inspired to sing, or play the guitar or write a line of a song I can hear in the background deep down in my brain:

“Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek, goin’ on the run
Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek t’ have a little fun
Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek, goin in a whirl
Goin’ up t’ Cripple Creek t’ see my girl”

Read more: Bill Monroe – Cripple Creek Lyrics | MetroLyrics

These Dreams….

Sometimes when you dream, you wake up wondering why you dreamed what you did. There are all kinds of scientific explanations about what dreams are; about what causes them. I have on some occasions been having a dream, got up and gone to the bathroom, or something else, and lay back down and resumed that very same dream. I wonder how that is possible? I suppose with the human mind, many things are possible that we do not even imagine.I think as humans age, they dream more and more….perhaps because they actually sleep more, but perhaps, it’s because they are transitioning. The body and the mind seem to be “unlinking” somehow. Sometimes the dreams are due to diseases which attack the brain. My Daddy had Lewy Body dementia, which causes very vivid and (to the person with the disease) realistic dreams. They swear things which they dream have really happened.Scientific explanations aside…..I wonder if our dreams are somehow a pathway to a place beyond where we are now? I used to sit up with sick people back in the day, some of them who were on death’s door. They all dreamed throughout the night. Many of them told me of dreaming about people who had gone on before them, or about sweet dreams of pleasant things.One man with whom I had worked in the Weave room at Trion, fixed looms all night long in his sleep, including the hand and arm motions involved. I asked him once when he woke up if he remembered what he had dreamed. “I dreamed about going home.” he said. “I dreamed about going home” A couple of weeks later, he did.I can only remember two dreams from my early childhood. This was in the days when we lived over on the end of Simmons street in Trion. We moved there early in 1955 and moved out in the summer of 1962.Both of them were very vivid and real to me. In one of them, we had walked out the front door into the front yard and heard a great din of sound from above us. I looked up, and the sky was filled with every size and shape of space ship or flying saucer imaginable. “They have come to get us.” my Dad said. Then I woke up. Mind you, this was somewhere around 1960 or 61 when I had this dream. Long before “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” “They have come to get us….”In the other dream, we went out the back door to our neighbors fence. It was a very intricately made fence, kind of a “woven” effect. There was a great multitude of people standing out there, starting from just outside our door, and stretching as far as the eye could see. Sitting on the top of that intricate fence was God….in flowing robes and long white beard, and people were approaching one at a time for their judgement. Some were going through a gate in the fence, (which was never there in real life) while others were being zapped by God with his staff. I figured that the ones going through the gate were headed to heaven. The others…well…I woke up before it was my turn. I expect this dream was the oldest of the two.So, here I sit wondering about dreams. I’ve been thinking about dreams all day. I wonder if I’ll be going home, or if I’ll be picked up by aliens, or if the judgement of God awaits. Perhaps none of the three, perhaps all of the three. Probably something totally different and unexpected that nobody…nobody…dreams of….I’m sure I’ll dream again tonight and maybe I’ll remember what I dream. Maybe not. As for ya’ll my friends….pleasant dreams.

The Heart

We think our brain controls everything, but sometimes I am not so sure, especially when it comes to our deepest most “heartfelt” emotions. That’s right, heartfelt..from the heart.

For eons, before mankind starting looking at everything from a scientific standpoint, humans thought the heart to be the center of all our emotions. Not until the age of enlightenment, and the acceptance of scientific methods did it become widely acceptable that our brains were the center of everything which make us human. Yet we still continue to associate our hearts with love.

All Valentines usually have some tie in with hearts. We give someone our heart when we fall in love. We still get broken hearts. We bless people’s hearts, not their brains!

Of course I know very well, that science is correct yet I wonder why my heart soars, and swells when my little ones do something loving. I feel it with a flutter in my chest, not in my head. I feel that warmth deep in my core when I think of the love I hold for my wife, my family. I still remember the gut wrenching pain which welled up from within me and the sobs of grief which racked me at the deaths of my parents and my daughter. If my brain was in control on those days, it wasn’t doing a very good job.

I really don’t think that even the world’s smartest scientists know everything about the way we humans are wired up. They got the schematics down pat..right down to the DNA. But they haven’t come up with the blueprints for the soul yet. I don’t think they ever will because our Creator hid them….deep down inside our heart.

Fear of Dying

Thinking back to my childhood, I can remember thinking that I would die young. My Mom was terrified of dying, and unfortunately being associated with that attitude at such a young age somewhat tainted my view of living. It wasn’t really her fault, but was a symptom of her mental illness. Of course, I didn’t know that.

Living was something you did super, ultra carefully. You didn’t want to open yourself up to possibly getting killed by doing something stupid….like playing baseball ( you might get hit in the head with a baseball and get killed….yes it was that bad). I therefore didn’t play little league until my last eligible year…although it turned out I was pretty good at it. Made the All Stars, hit some home runs, had fun!

I tried to staunch my fears when I was raising my kids, but didn’t do well in some cases. They were lucky to have a stable Mom, because I was prone to panic attacks, and had irrational fears of many things: flying, bad storms, etc. I know my kids can remember. I regret those shortcomings, but at the time, I had no solutions. Later on in life, I got medication for my problems, and settled down somewhat. I say somewhat, because I still harbored some of those irrational fears. I did overcome my fear of flying and got a house with a dang good storm shelter!

I feel like that in 2010, when I had my bypass surgery, I became much less fearful of death. I became more capable of living in the day, and appreciating the beauty of the world around me, and being ever so grateful for the family I have to share my life with. Sometimes I still fear the unknown, but not nearly to the extent that I used to.

At my age, I surely don’t have to worry about “dying young” anymore. I do however, certainly want to continue to be able to build memories with my little ones as long as I possibly can.

My Mom lived to be almost eighty one years old, and only in her very final last days do I believe she found some inner strength, and sacrificed her fear of death to the ability to find some peace. I was there with her…almost all her family was there.

Build happy memories friends and family, and do not be fearful of the unknown!

Peace.

Seeking Solace

There is solace here in this life if you will seek it. There is the smell of the fresh, clear winter air and the smell of a baby’s sweet clean hair. There’s that wonderful smell of homemade chili cooking on the stove.

There’s the sight of a huge yellow moon hanging in the night sky, almost bright as the sun. The pillowy clouds filling the fall skies, like a huge warm quilt your Grandma made you.

There’s the love of family around you as often as you can get them. The tenderness, the touching. The temper tantrums and the discipline. The togetherness in this life, and even beyond.

There are these things and more to sustain us if we will only let it. If we drop our obsessions with what others are doing, what they are saying. If we concentrate our efforts on the things that really should make us happy.

The things that really matter.

Stardust

We are stardust….nucleosynthesis created the carbon within us. Supernovas created the iron which is in our blood. Helium, hydrogen, Oxygen…all created by the processes it took to form our Universe.

The tiniest strands of our DNA are coiled around in configurations inside our bodies, like the spiral galaxies that our far seeing telescopes gaze out at.

All around us are these incredible wonders, all within us they are the same.

We are gifted with the knowledge of some of these things….by far not all, that’s for sure. We should all realize the kindred that we share with each other. We are so much alike, yet each a little different. Each of us our own little walking, taking, thinking biosphere which is powered by the energy that we have been bequeathed by the Universe around us.

The Universe has done the miraculous in each and every one of us.

I don’t know what there is in us which causes us to feel the way we do, one towards another. These emotions we generate. Love, hate, the chief amongst the many. I think we should look at each other as what we really are….cosmic sisters and brothers on a common journey, to an unknown destination. Treat each other better.

We are all stardust, and one day we will all be again. Let’s make the most of our conscious time together.