Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Rose of Sharon Veins, Jamestown, NC
Warming spring weather,
stirs the formation of leaves,
and new life abounds.
permeate a plant’s structure,
Xylem cells supply,
phloem cells return.
Large veins with branches,
provide netlike logistics,
supporting the plant.
Cold autumn weather,
slows and then stops the process,
setting the leaves free.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Low Tide, Lowes Foods Aisle, Jamestown, NC
"Time and tide wait for no man."—Chaucer
I always consult the NOAA tide tables before I set out to forage for food in the local grocery aisles here in the Carolina's. It’s much easier to navigate the aisles at low tide and I’ve also discovered over time that prices are lower every twelve and one-half hours during the two tidal troughs every 25 hours. That’s because the earth rotates on its axis and the moon completes one orbit every 25 hours. So, the times for high and low tides change by fifty minutes every day. That’s why you should keep a NOAA tide table handy in your coupon book at all times!
And the highest and lowest tides occur when the sun and moon are on the same side of the earth during a New Moon or on opposite sides of the earth during a Full Moon. Those periods generally create double coupon savings at low Tide, especially on beer and detergents!
The image above of a low Tide at Lowes Foods was taken close to the beer corral.
There’s a reason they call themselves Lowes.
I think not!
Low Tide, Kiawah Island Beach, SC
Monday, June 27, 2016
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Wispy Cloud, Jamestown, NC
Wispy Flower, Jamestown, NC
Wispy cirrus clouds,
coalesce high in the sky,
mimicking mare’s tails.
Harbingers of storms,
foretelling gathering clouds,
and life-giving rains.
reach to the sky overhead,
in pure white glory.
The wispy petals,
mimic the high-flying clouds,
as earth and sky merge.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Monday, June 20, 2016
Lightning Rods, Summerfield, NC
I’ve developed a Saturday morning ritual in the past few years of slipping through a Starbucks drive-through for a scone and a tall mocha and then casually enjoying the treat while aimlessly cruising the back road ridges of the local countryside. I always have an eye out for anything interesting that is worthy of writing a “look at that” haiku or blog posting and a photograph. Hence the name selected for my Observations blog. I don’t necessarily focus on any one thing like cooking which would probably draw many times the page views I currently enjoy, but that’s not my thing. I write this blog for the joy of creating and sharing.
My rambling journey last week took me past a country barn that I had chanced upon earlier in the year. On this day the weathered old hay barn was stacked to the brim with round bales of newly mowed pasture grasses. There was an observed symbiotic relationship between the aging barn that was protecting the hay from the elements and the large round bales that were helping to support the barn.
Once I had downloaded the images from the road trip and ran them through my rather simplistic editing program, I noticed the three lightning rods protruding above the ridge row of the barn’s roofline. A more refined cropping of the image revealed that these lightning rods were connected to a wire that ran down the right front side through small white porcelain connectors and into the ground. A direct lightning strike here would undoubtedly result in an immediate spontaneous fire that would light up the whole countryside in an instant if it passed through the structure!
A lightning strike over this barn will be directed from the high rods to the large expanse of conducting earth below. This barn is well-grounded! So are folks that are observed to be sensible and down-to-earth with their feet firmly on the ground. The analogy I recently read about in an article on the young golfing phenom Jordan Spieth couldn’t have been more apparent. Jordan is well-grounded in his reliance and faith in God and understands that much is expected of those who have been given much. He’s stated that his younger sister Ellie who has a form of autism keeps him grounded when he sees the struggles that she and her friends go through every day to do simple tasks that most of us take for granted. He still drives the same Yukon that he had in school and trusts his dad to help with the right investments. Investments like the new Jordan Spieth Family Foundation to encourage and support underprivileged kids, military families, and children with special needs.
People with a special charisma that attracts others to them can be referred to as lightning rods. They have a special energy that can become contagious. We seem to be drawn to them like lightning bugs to a flame. That fire can be destructive if the individual isn’t well-grounded. But we’ve all observed how this energy can also be used as a conduit for all manner of goodwill in this broken world when someone grounds themselves in a firm trust and faith in our Creator.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
First Tee, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
Par 5, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
Practice Range, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
Ragged Head Cover, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
US OPEN WEEKEND
I spent the past week walking the fairways with playing groups of teenagers on the Donald Ross golf course at Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, NC. This was an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event whose mission is “developing golf’s next generation.” The Haas family hosted the event. When reflecting on his son Bill’s AJGA experience, Jay Haas said “I told him any competition he can play in is good for him going forward, but the end result is growing up in many ways, not necessarily as a golfer, but as a person.” Jordan Spieth commented that “For me, it took my game from ‘I think I’m pretty good’ to a very humbled experience of ‘these guys are good and you need to work your butt off’. To win an AJGA event then is as hard as it is to win a PGA Tour event now. They’re not easy.” Annika Sorenstam observed that “I am most impressed with the life lessons they instill such as the importance of manners, respect, leadership skills, and giving back to communities.”
This tournament consisted of a full four days of competitive golf. As a scoring volunteer, I had the pleasure of watching these young men take on a PGA caliber test of golf at the highest level with tee boxes and pin placements that were the same as those in place for the Wyndham Championship. Unlike PGA players, AJGA players have no caddy and carry or pull their own bags. After walking with them on my first day in hot and humid weather, I was dehydrated and dragging at the end of the round. They went off to the practice range! Players came from California to the Carolina’s across the country and all corners of the world like Japan, Australia and Trinidad. I followed a young California player on the final day that shot a four under 66 with five birdies and only one bogey which was the result of a Donald Ross signature turtle back green. He finished tied for seventh place along with another player I had followed. That’s some tough competition!
I had brief opportunities to chat about the players with some of the parents, coaches and instructors that were also following the college prospects. Without exception, they mentioned that these players had picked up the game at a very early age using short plastic clubs and then had begun to focus on golf as their dedicated passion in life after sampling other venues. These young men were all about the business at hand on the course, but quite personable off the course in the tournament room. The ping pong table was always competitive after a round and the practice range was busy before and after every round.
It was a gratifying week to observe and interface with these young players and their support people, including the dedicated lone parents who walked the rounds with them. There were no teeming crowds or “Arnie’s Armies” moving en masse as the players made their rather solitary way down the fairways, onto the putting surfaces and off to the next tee box. Adoring nameless fans were not a factor in their motivation. A quick photo I took with my iPhone which I was using to communicate scores in real time says it all for me. The ragged R9 head cover of one of my players I was scoring is a small manifestation of the countless grueling hours spent in solitary practice on the ranges and putting greens around the country. And as many weekend golfers can relate, all the effort can be summarized as simply "for the love of the game".
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Imperfect Cross, Bethlehem, Israel
A pending Duke Theology graduate and friend shared his learning experience in the Holy Land last Thursday at a breakfast and thoughtfully presented everyone with an olive wood cross that was made in Bethlehem. As the bag of crosses was being passed to me I noticed an odd shaped cross through the clear plastic which I selected. This imperfect cross is slightly out of balance as the horizontal beam leans to one side, unlike the perfect being that willingly sacrificed himself for us on such a cross. There were a lot of crosses in the bag that were more perfect than this one, but it reminded me of the shells that I now pick up at the beach. When we first arrived in the Carolina’s and went shelling on the beach, I would seemingly walk forever to find the perfect shell that was not broken or misshapen or contained any flaws from days of being tumbled in the surf. Then on a much later beach trip, I began to notice the beauty that is in those shell fragments that are broken and polished by the constant pressure of the waves and the storms of life. That was the day that I began to collect those treasures that the bearer of the footsteps ahead of me had left unclaimed.
Our Creator and Savior doesn’t leave us unclaimed either. He created us humans with imperfections in a broken environment and gave us the free will to choose how we live and grow in our lives.
I’ve had two knee joint replacement surgeries and open heart bypass surgery in between them. God has taught me through my shelling experience on the Carolina beaches that the remnant zipper scars from those surgeries are not abhorrent but artistic character lines that were earned in the trenches of this broken world! And many of life’s scars are not visible, but all can be celebrated when God walks with us or even carries us on the beaches of life and helps us emerge safely on the other side of the island.
I know many of you have dabbled in the game of golf over the years and I’ve played the game on and off since I was in college fifty years ago. And one thing that I’ve learned through all those hours on a golf course is that the game of golf imitates life in so many ways. Perhaps that is one of the subconscious reasons so many of us are drawn to the game. It’s also one of those games that can never be mastered, although there are occasions when you pull off a perfect shot and can feel like you are indeed playing in the zone. Life can be like that too!
Over the years I’ve read a couple of the books by a sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella. I find that he has some pretty astute observations on the game of golf and life. One of those quotes I particularly like is that:
“Golf is about how well you accept, respond to and score with your misses, much more than it is a game of perfect shots.”
And there are plenty of times in life where it seems we have absolutely no control over the adverse circumstances that we’re encountering. But we always have one very important control that we need to remember and that’s how we choose to respond to a situation. We always have a response to the hard shanks of life by communicating with our Savior who understands the suffering and pain we humans can encounter in this temporary mortal life. I don’t think it’s possible for any of us to go through life without experiencing pain and suffering. We have a lot of misses in life. It’s not a game of perfect. But when we have a solid foundation of faith based on the Word of God and the promise of His priceless grace and presence for us, we can respond with strength and the sure knowledge that He has us in the grip of His loving hands.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Open Door, Bethlehem, Israel
Ever since I can remember I have set a clock radio to the local NPR station to civilly wake me for the new day. For those of you that listen to public radio, you know that the BBC covers the late night hours until early morning. Today I was rising early and was awakened by a soulful, haunting melody that was being broadcast from Brittan before the baton was handed off to America. The music somehow resonated in the depths of my subconscious, so I stayed and listened to the radio.
The melody was simply being whistled in the early morning hour. And one of the accompanying poignant stories was of a man who was being interviewed after spending time in solitary confinement in apartheid South Africa. He had maintained his sanity by walking in the windowless cell and whistling this celebrated melody from Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony 9 in E Minor, OP 95, From the New World; II LARGO. This second movement had been translated into a popular spiritual titled Goin’ Home by one of his pupils. The Czech composer created this symphony while in America as director of the National Conservatory of Music at the turn of the twentieth century. Dvořák’s main goal in America was to discover "American Music" and engage in it. He stated that he used elements from American spirituals and Native American music in this work. Both venues incorporate the pentatonic scale in their music. The prisoner had found great solace when he heard a faint echo of the whistle coming from a distant cell in the building. Later, he met the stranger who also took comfort in the music and learned that they were both passionate about anti-apartheid and Dvorak.
Another story was about a group of British women that had been living in Singapore at the beginning of Japan’s WWII invasion. They ended up in a soulless prison camp, but found salvation and a reason to survive by slowly creating a women’s choir that practiced singing the melody in small groups. When they finally coordinated their combined voices, she recalled that “freedom had ascended into the heavens from the hell hole of our existence”. Another story revolved around the memory of a now adult man who was in a high school orchestra. He recalled that they had progressed enough to prompt their music instructor to have them attempt the second movement. It did not go well initially and the students became discouraged. Then the instructor confided in the students that he had selected this piece because it held significant meaning in his life. Early in his music career he had been unemployed and broken-spirited. He had pawned his viola for a suicide gun. Then he told them that he heard this music and it saved his life, “so may we please continue?” The student reflected that testimony became a turning point for everyone and they went on to a lasting bond culminating in a wonderful performance.
Some music goes straight to the heart, some resonates with the intellect. This music pierces the soul. “From The New World” is the most popular of Dvorak’s works and has been performed more often than any other symphony at the Royal Festival Hall, London. If the music seems familiar it may be because it has been widely used in all media venues such as films and advertisements. I don’t know if the distressed folks in these stories knew the words to “Goin’ Home” or the music simply was apt, but the ending words to the song certainly applied:
Morning star lights the way
Restless dream all done
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life yes begun
There's no break, aint no end
Jus' a livin' on
Wide awake with a smile
Going on and on
Going home, going home
I'm jus' going home
It's not far, yes close by
Through an open door
I'm jus' going home
Going home, going home
If you’d like to jar your memory, here is a link to a few minutes of the second movement on YouTube:
Saturday, June 4, 2016
1940 Plymouth Sedan, Internet Domain
A switch in the receding recesses of my memory cells was tripped this week by a headline story about a young boy that called 911 to report his father had ran a red light. He had actually made a right turn on red. Isn’t it amazing how many small incidents and daily routines occur in the course of a life that will forever go without recall? But then there are a chosen few that seem to stay on a shorter leash and occasionally bubble up to the surface. Sometimes it only takes a similar incident to make the connection and transfer an old memory to your present consciousness.
I grew up with a large extended family that included a dozen cousins. Summertime was always filled with sun and fun, with the exception of those boring rainy days when you constantly hassled your mother about having nothing to do. We never had any problem finding something to do outdoors, however, and that’s where I spent most of my childhood days.
My grandpa Davis and grandmother lived next door which was nice. So we grandkids had lots of occasions to interact with them and share the love. That was another time in America as we were transitioning from a rural to an urban society and families still lived relatively close together. The 911 story prompted me to remember a summertime day when a number of us grandkids were riding in the spacious back of my grandpa’s old four door Plymouth sedan. I can’t swear that it was a Plymouth or even what year it was, but that’s the hazy image that still resides in my aging grey matter. I do vividly recall that we had ample room back there to stand up and jump around without the contemporary constraints of seat belts, child restraining seats and child door locks.
My grandpa Davis was literally smoking down one of the grid streets in our small central Kansas town (he always had that ubiquitous Roi Tan cigar poking out the side of his mouth and unfiltered smoking wasn’t a concern, let alone second hand smoke for children). Air conditioning involved rolling down all the windows. As we approached the main thoroughfare that dissected the town he blew right through one of the stop signs that lined every street that intersected the road. Everyone in the car except my grandpa seemed to notice the sign and we all yelled and screamed. He didn’t miss a beat as he took a puff on the shortening Roi Tan and calmly said with a smile, “There’s no cars coming.” He had lived all of his life on farms where you pretty much took a common sense approach to life without the need for governments directing how you moved around.
That memory has also surfaced every once in a while when I hear the story about how “a guy wanted to leave this earth just like his grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep—not like all the people yelling and screaming in the back seat!” And you can bet your bottom dollar that if one of us grandkids had a futuristic cell phone on that long ago summer day, we would NOT have called the police. I do believe that we had a good time telling HIS children though!
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Beach Sounds, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Have you ever stopped the music, grabbed the nearest chair, put your life on rewind and just reflected about the soundtrack of your life? As life moves along we’re exposed to a plethora of sounds and many of them become woven into the tapestry of our being. They’re as much a part of our life as the familiar places and comfort food we enjoy. And all of the non-verbal sounds including instrumental music are part of the universal language in everyone’s life.
The obvious first impression is all the music that has shaped who you are and who you will still become. Early childhood music and songs still ring with nostalgia when you attend a children’s choir performance. Then there’s the popular music that became an obsession during our teen years. I grew to appreciate the Beach Boys, Bob Marley and James Taylor much more after we moved to the Carolina’s. That was followed by possibly more reserved jazz, classical or even alternative sounds. Our senior years hopefully are filled with a wide variety of music including the recall of old hymns to complete a life well lived. That certainly includes listening to the comfort music that conjures up many of our milestone moments and experiences of the past. In fact, last year marked the first time in U.S. history that catalogue albums out sold new releases. Nostalgia is in the air waves!
Then there are the voices of the past that always give us pause to reflect. Voices such as television anchors that we listened to for years and years during the dinner hour. Familiar voices of movie stars that we enjoyed watching in a variety of roles and emotional situations become as recognizable as those of close friends and family members. Actually, we still have the opportunity to listen to those voices that have been archived on celluloid film even more than those of folks that we actually knew in real life. Popular sportscasters were people that we also spent a considerable amount of time watching and listening to on radios and televisions. These people never knew us, but we were very familiar with them and their voices. Have you ever finally met a radio personality that you listened to for years and found that they didn’t look anything like the image you had in your mind?
The sounds of nature can be very unique to a time and place. I’ll always have an imprint of the piercing screech of a golden eagle soaring over a Rocky Mountain canyon, the taunting caw of a flock of crows hassling a red tail hawk in a grove of walnut trees, or the plaintive call of sea gulls as they glide along the edges of a windswept beach. I will always recall the lonesome sound of a loon at evening time across a placid moonlit Minnesota lake in late spring. Then there’s the distant gathering cries of migrating flocks of geese overhead on a chilly late autumn night as a cold front drives them south on a strong northerly wind. And I still have vivid memories of listening to coyotes calling from hill to hill around the family farm on a humid summer’s night in the central Kansas Flint Hills.
There are even inanimate sounds that enter into our lives like a comfortable pair of blue jeans. Who cannot feel nostalgic when hearing the distant whistle of a train in the dark hours of the night? And the sound of rain gently falling on a windowpane can really leave you in a melancholy mood. Water rushing down a rocky mountain stream and waves lapping onto a sandy beach never lose their calming effect. And neither does the sound of wind moving through the tall grass prairie or high country pine needles and rustling aspen leaves. The approaching sound of ominous thunder in the distance as it gains momentum always stirs up long forgotten fears buried deep within our prehistoric DNA.
We consciously and subconsciously find comfort and solace in all of these sounds as they complete the unique playlist for the soundtrack of a life.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
First Day Lily, Jamestown, NC
The Day Lily has only one day to live,
but that is time enough.
Dawn breaks in the East.
As the linen sky glows pink,
swelling buds respond.
The light signals life.
Sunbeams pierce the horizon,
and darkness recedes.
The flower opens.
Photo cells begin to charge,
and colorful petals furl.
New life is revealed.
As DNA is released,
the circle closes.