Monday, November 29, 2010

DO YOU HEAR?


Cannon, Valley Forge, PA

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men.
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again.
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums.
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes.

--Les Miserables

The words and music of the rallying cry above are one of the most rousing ever penned. Ironically, it was written for a tribute to the Paris uprising of 1832, but it could equally apply to most uprisings of the human spirit, such as the American Revolution of 1775-1783. The Marquis de Layfette and King Louie XVI interestingly were intimately involved in both the American Revolution and then the French Revolution of 1789-1799 as one succeeded the other.

Listen to the music of Les Miserables at:

http://www.lesmis.com/gallery/music/

Sunday, November 28, 2010

FORGING A NATION





Redoubt with Artillery, Valley Forge, PA
Exposed Soldier's Huts, Valley Forge, PA
Sheltered Soldier's Huts, Valley Forge, PA
Grand Parade Ground, Valley Forge, PA


Walking along the barren parade grounds of Valley Forge on an overcast late November day encumbered by a cold rain mixed with sleet can only hint at the struggle enjoined by the fourteen thousand colonial men who filed into this Pennsylvania valley on December 19, 1777. This imposing valley chosen by General George Washington to winter his troops became a living crucible of historic change. The valley acquired its name from the iron forge on Valley Creek that had been operational until the British forces destroyed it. The new Continental Congress had been expected to have food, supplies and fortifications in place, but the men found nothing but the barren landscape when they arrived that winter’s day. It was left to Washington and his men to forage for themselves to provide the necessary provisions for survival so that the revolution for freedom from British taxation and tyranny would survive with them. It took the men eight weeks to build their own simple one room shelters while they endured the frigid elements. The ensuing winter was bitter and over three thousand patriots did not live to see the arrival of spring. Weaker souls deserted to return to the warmth of home.

A national park like Gettysburg has many impressive cannon placements and revetments to visually show where thousands of men clashed in mortal combat. The land at Valley Forge suggests a much more subtle struggle. The park has a few defensive redoubts with a smattering of small cannon, but the real battle in this hallowed place was fought against disease, the elements and the temptation to not stay the course. The energies of these patriots were focused on survival and the critical training required to be a united force of men whose hearts and souls were dedicated to the cause of freedom. The men who occupied this valley were from all over the world. They struggled so that the sons and daughters of immigrants might live and prosper as a free people in these United States of America. Come spring, “the beating of their hearts echoed the beating of the drums” as they marched out of the valley with a newly formed resolve and strength to meet destiny.

The valley’s namesake is an apt image for the transformation of the collective character of the united army that emerged in the spring. This character was transformed and strengthened through a crucible of frigid hardship and endurance in much the same way that iron is forged into steel in the crucible of fire. These freedom fighters had been forged in the trials and challenges of those winter months, while their British counterparts were living a relatively comfortable life in the captured city of Philadelphia only eighteen miles away.

A young twenty year old French major general, the Marquis de Lafayette, had both the ear of the French King Louie XVI and the heart of General Washington. When the French finally recognized the new country and allied with the United States on May 6, 1778, five thousand British troops were sent from Philly to defend their profitable sugar cane interests in the Caribbean. The remaining troops were ordered to join forces in New York. Ironically, Louie XVI was overthrown by his own dissident revolutionary countrymen just a decade later. Lafayette died at age 76 and is buried in Paris under soil from Washington’s grave in Mount Vernon.

The arrival of a volunteer from Germany, General Friederich von Steuben, was fortuitous because he was able to forge a seasoned fighting force in this valley capable of meeting the professional enemy head on in the open fields of the Atlantic coast area. These patriots defeated the British in a late June battle at Monmouth, New Jersey, as they retreated to New York. That winter’s easy living conditions actually weakened the British soldiers during that fateful march which was ordered in extraordinarily hot and humid conditions.

The fires of freedom dimmed and were in perilous danger of burning out in the cold rain and sleet, but the collective spirit and passion of these men for a nation of free countrymen kept them alive to live and fan the wild prairie fires of the heart and soul of a new united nation, forged in the frigid winter winds of this Pennsylvania valley.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

DRINK WITH ME





Liberty,Equality,Fraternity, Versailles, France
Royal Bedroom, Versailles, France
Garden Balcony View, Versailles, France
Formal Garden, Versailles, France


Of all the music and specifically musicals I’ve experienced in life, Les Miserables is by far the most powerful and emotional that is life changing. The events draw upon Victor Hugo’s classic novel of the social and political turmoil around the Paris uprising of 1832. The music by Claude-Michel Shonberg and the unforgettable lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer soar out across the orchestra to deliver a permanent impression between your ears. In the spring of 2006 we had the good fortune to take a long anticipated trip to London and Paris. While in London, we followed Rick Steves' advice and stood in an early morning line for unclaimed theater seats for that evening’s performance of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theater. We scored right center seats up front.

The experience was enhanced just a few days later as we walked the formal gardens and halls of the palace of Versailles where the French King Louie XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette lived an extravagant, luxury loving, “let them eat cake” life with their court. We stood in the Queen’s Guard room where on October 6, 1789 a mob of revolutionaries who were starving in the streets of Paris stormed the palace at the outset of the French Revolution of 1789-1799. The two symbols of decadence and detachment from the common people were overthrown, but not without the ultimate sacrifice of many young patriots.

We have the power of the ballot box and electronic social media today. The patriots’ drinking song in a Paris tavern on the eve of their lost defiance in the barricaded streets is one of the most poignant toasting songs I have ever heard or sung and it almost always brings pause to collect emotions:

Drink with me to days gone by.
Can it be you fear to die?
Will the world remember you
When you fall?
Could it be your death
Means nothing at all?
Is your life just one more lie?

Drink with me to days gone by.
To the life that used to be.
At the shrine of friendship, never say die.
Let the wine of friendship never run dry.
Here's to you and here's to me.


HERE’S TO FRIENDSHIP!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

IRISH BLESSING


Waterfall Rainbow, NC Nantahala National Forest

May you always have work for your hands to do.
May your pockets hold always a coin or two.
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane.
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NANTAHALA NORTH CAROLINA WATERFALLS


Cullasaja Falls, NC Nantahala National Forest
Bridal Veil Falls, NC Nantahala National Forest
Dry Falls, NC Nantahala National Forest
After the Fall, NC Nantahala National Forest


Just what is it that attracts us humans to a spectacular waterfall anyway? Certainly the majestic beauty of thousands of gallons of water cascading over sheer rock cliffs can do it. The awesome roar of tons of water colliding with the rocks and pools below will get our attention as well. And perhaps the adventure associated with all that energy rushing from high above to its destiny in some distant sea fascinates us as the cycle of replenishment begins anew to nourish the interior land. Cascading waterfalls are a feast for the senses that conjure up an image of a huge migration of liquid lemming droplets that mindlessly and recklessly follow the herd to their collective fate--an image that recalls our childhood and every teacher’s and mother’s admonishment, “If all the other kids jumped off a cliff, would you do it too”?

Monday, November 15, 2010

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH MORNING SHADOWS





Tracking Shadows, WB, NC
Fencing with Shadows, WB, NC
Snow Fence Shadows, WB, NC
Me and My Shadow, WB, NC


We coexist with shadows all of our lives. They appear anytime a light source is directed upon a solid object. Spiritual beings don’t appear to cast a shadow due to their ethereal nature and our general inability to perceive them. On those rare occasions when they visit human beings, I wonder if they cast a shadow. The longer light rays of early morning or late afternoon create the most pronounced shadows that more readily catch our eye. These longer and darker forms completely change their landscape and then slowly subside like the lowering tides.

I recall reading of an ancient battle that was at its most feverish pitch when a full eclipse of the sun occurred. The combatants quickly dropped their weapons and declared a truce. That was a shadow that really made an impression! Our own personal shadows accompany us everywhere, although they’re generally ignored. But while strolling along the beach away from the rising sun, it’s hard to ignore the darkened profile of our being that walks ahead and easily extends to more than double our height while all the time mimicking our every move.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

MORNING JOY


Morning Joy, Destin, FL

For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

---Psalm 30:5

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. -Rabindranath Tagore, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel laureate (1861-1941)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

EMERALD COAST





Balcony View, Destin, FL
Quartz Beach, Destin, FL
Bait Fish School, Destin, FL
Emerald Waters, Destin, FL


The beaches along the Gulf of Mexico coastline of Florida’s panhandle are famous for their sparkling, sugar white sands and warm, emerald-green waters. Actually, these are not sand beaches at all but pure white quartz crystals from the Georgia-South Carolina Appalachian Mountains deposited from the last ice age. The refraction of tropical sun rays off the stunning quartz crystals in the shallow blue gulf waters near the coastline reflects the beautiful emerald color.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SUNSET




Miramar Beach Sunset I,II,&III, Destin,FL

Ever notice your demeanor after quietly witnessing the spectacular light shows of both a sunrise and a sunset? The circular path of the earth reminds us daily of the even larger dance of the circle of life. The days fly by as we complete one more trip around the sun. As the sun rises in the east our surroundings rapidly brighten as the dawning of a new day marches on. Generally, our outlook and attitude also take on a brightening glow as we bolster ourselves to meet the new day’s opportunities and challenges head on. Then the sun begins its relentless journey across the sky to the western horizon, or so it seems--which is a good reason not to always trust our perspective or intuition, as the sun only appears to move as our planet spins on its axis for another day. And a sunset seems not too surprisingly to leave us with a darkening world that is winding down from the day’s busyness as both our bodies and minds seek the shelter of less stress and anxiety and rest. The storms of life can leave us a bit battered and beat up at the end of the day, but that’s when a firm foundation of faith enables us to just trust in our creator God and resolve that we’ll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

COMING HOME






Wintering Monarchs, Fort Walton Beach, FL

Having been raised on the plains of central Kansas, I’m most familiar with the lingering flights of monarch butterflies as they migrate southward in the fall and return northward in summer. What I never knew is that they are the only butterfly to do this and their migration encompasses the life of three to four generations due to their short life span. But their most remarkable ability is to return to the same locations over a gap of several generations based on a time-compensated sun compass that depends upon a circadian clock that is based in their antennae.

It was quite a serendipitous moment to stumble upon nectar rich Gulf Coast blooms that had attracted hundreds of these wayfaring winged spirits. And to discover that they had at last returned to an ancient sanctuary from imminent harsh winter days even though they had come home to a place they had never been before. Some folks say that defines heaven.

Monday, November 8, 2010

SERENDIPITY SUNRISE





Miramar Beach First Light, Destin, FL
Miramar Beach Sunrise, Destin, FL
Miramar Beach Sunshine, Destin, FL
Great Blue Heron, Destin, FL


I enjoy photographing the colorful beach sunrise and sunset light shows which are brief unique creations that fuse magical light, sky, ocean and shoreline. I had ventured out onto a sandbar near the Miramar Beach shoreline to position myself for another new days birthing event over the Gulf of Mexico. As I peered into the camera screen, a large winged shadow suddenly flew into my range and landed onto the same sandbar between me and the rising sun. And then the sunrise spirit remained frozen in the salt water as we witnessed the sunrise together in a rare Nirvana moment of the present. When something as magical as this happens between man and God’s creation, Native American Indians say, “We have walked together in the shadow of a rainbow”. Some would call it serendipity. The great blue heron remained as I moved on down the beach after the show was over, knowing that our kindred spirits had bonded. These large wading birds especially like to feed in the shallow water’s edge around dawn and dusk, which explains why we met again around sunset.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

COLD FRONT






Marshmallow (Altocumulus) Clouds, Jamestown, NC

I was out for a late afternoon "Take Five" drive to nowhere in particular today, when I crested a hill with a relatively unobstructed view of the sky. An interesting wall cloud of billowing radiant white rows appeared on the immediate horizon and blitzed toward me like an invading army. Within minutes it began to overtake the lowering sun and obscure its extended rays. Although it was not as animated, the temperature simultaneously began to drop in lock step with the assaulting columns of vaporous invaders. And within the hour, the sunset revealed a clear, cold blue sky that had acquiesced to the change of the season.

THE INNER SOUL REMAINS



Venus de Milo, Paris, France
Egyptian Royalty, London, England


“The world and its desires pass away, but the man that does the will of God lives forever.”--1 John 2:17
“Deep within abides another life, not like the life of the senses, escaping sight, unchanging. This endures when all created things have passed away.”--Hinduism


“When looking at ancient buildings and at monuments constructed thousands of years ago, we see that decorations and ornaments have vanished. Even walls and roofs have crumbled. Only foundations and central pillars remain. Similarly, the limbs and extremities of ancient statues often have fallen away, leaving only those portions supported by strong central structures.

The same is true in our lives. The ever-changing outer world gradually teaches us to look for and appreciate inner, more lasting values. Ultimately we are led to the realization that only our inner spirit remains untouched by change. The innermost nature of our being remains steadfast through all passing joys and pains. It is at the core of our being that our lives touch the Eternal, and it is from here that we derive our true strength.”--Jeffrey Moses, Oneness

The goddess of love in her original grandeur was the idealized form of human beauty and perfection. The Egyptian royalty represented the ultimate in human power and strength. Both are now the poster child for all the vanishing worldly things that never survive this existence. I’ve observed close relatives who worked all their lives to build a life and a secure home. If you live long enough, that can literally all slowly vanish by the time you breathe your last breath of life. And then what remains? Perhaps the most precious thing you have possessed all of your life and the one eternal thing that absolutely defines you.