Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mind Jungle

An early memory from the early 1940s, or even the late 1930s, is at Mom and Pop’s house. It was not Alfred’s house from which we just moved and which they sold and moved away in 1923. It may have been the house they rented on Baker Court at what? Fountain Avenue? when they returned to Panama City, now gone and existing only in my crevices. As much as the house itself, my memories include as a tiny boy, arriving there after midnight from Pensacola with my father. The house never being locked, going in and to bed in what may, not many years earlier, have been his bedroom before he and my mother married, my waking the next morning alone and him gone to work, panicking until I heard Mom stirring in the kitchen. When I walked into the kitchen she looked surprised at me and said, “I thought I heard someone come in during the night,” and fixed breakfast for me. I remember Pop lighting fireworks, roman candles, in the front yard there on the Fourth of July about 1939 or 1940. I remember Mom teaching me and Ann, my first cousin whom Mom and Pop adopted, to “pick eggs” in the chicken coop out back, quickly to scoot the hen off her nest so she didn’t peck and crack her eggs. There was the double garage out back where the huge oak tree still stands, a two story garage with a garage apartment above, empty except for an ancient dictaphone from Pop’s business days; and Pop’s two cars, the 1936 Plymouth business coupe of which my sharpest memory is the dash with one large round instrument

and the 1937 Chevrolet coach (2-door sedan) both cars with “A” gasoline ration stickers on the windshields. The mind wanders, doesn’t it — all that has been remembered here before, and isn’t where I was going at all. Why did they have two cars when Mom couldn’t drive, never drove a car in her life? Asked, my mother said it was so they could have two “A” coupons and buy more gasoline during the War when gas was rationed. I don’t know. My mother was not a fan of her in-laws, for family reasons that go way back to Bluff Springs and I'm not going there this morning. 

More likely it was the house at 1040 E. Caroline, a cement block house with a flat roof, that Pop himself built and where I spent many Sunday afternoons after church, “spending the day” to play with Ann. What I remember is Ann sitting in Pop’s lap, it was her domain, she never suffered me to sit there, while Pop read aloud about Mowgli. I don’t remember how my mind got onto Rudyard Kipling this morning, starting that memory spiral; it may have been reflecting that I remember Pop when he was younger than the age I am now, and then back into the years. But Mowgli the Jungle Boy, lost in the Indian jungle and raised by wolves, his brothers wolf cubs. His mortal enemy Shere Khan the tiger. And then to Cub Scouts, our pack at Cove School, where the Jungle Book formed a background of our moral code, and our ranking was wolf cub, bear cub, lion cub. 

With Kipling my mind never stops wandering as I watch Warren Middlemas, my intellectual hero of the Cove School years, standing and reciting, “‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling.” What year was that? To my shame by comparison, I’d memorized something much easier, “In School-Days,” by John Greenleaf Whittier. But this is my best memory of Cove School. This, and Gail singing “Til it wilted, I wore it, I'll always adore it, My sweet little Alice blue gown.” But Kipling —


If you can keep your head when all about you
  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
  And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
  And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
  And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
  To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
  Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
  Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
  If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
  With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
  And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Honestly, as wandering as a dream, I don’t know why the mind does this to me, takes me on such adventures — no matter: the blog is for me alone.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Adversus Naïveté

it’s about Time

Weather this instant is cooler outside than in, 73F to 74F, but sliding the porch door open, 95% humidity hits rude, abrupt: back inside with cuppa and square, waning gibbous moon straight up directly atop my left shoulder.

Feeling the opposite of Marcus with his sagacity, I am thinking, knowing, remembering, somewhat regretting, what? Time. Time, my Ordinary Time. Time is all we have. Regardless how we are compensated for Time -- pay, overtime pay, holiday time pay, recognition, medals, awards, ribbons, admiration, compliments, honors and promotions, Time is all we have, plain ordinary Time is all we have to offer, to sell, to exchange, to enjoy, in which to live and love. How did I use it? I worked. In my life’s Ordinary Time, I worked. Hard. Diligent. Long, hard, diligent and productive. In most Navy tours, I was in the office alone Saturday mornings. Where did I get that? My father started me in the fish market at age nine, summers, after school, Saturday mornings scrubbing trucks. Twenty years of “The Navy Comes First.” For the Good of the Company is the fiction of Dame Folly who inhabits every corporate “person” but is no person at all. No company has a heart except of greed for our Time. 

The Wisdom of Otis woke me: during my last Navy assignment in Washington DC, the day one of my subordinates, a GS-15 who was a retired Navy captain, told me, “Once you retire, the Navy hopes never to hear from you again.” His name was Otis, it was the wisdom of Otis. No organization has a heart of mercy, lovingkindness, chesed. A company’s heart is for mission. Naïveté buys into, trusts Folly's Promise, gives loyalty and naively expects loyalty in return, exchanges Ordinary Time for Folly’s Invitation. In Time, or perhaps not until +Time, he may see that Time was all he had, and it is gone.

Wise for his age, from a short distance I am seeing and admiring one young man, anonymous here, who seems to understand at twenty-two, that life isn’t about money, medals, awards, recognition, praise, it’s about Time. 

Wisdom’s Feast

Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven pillars.
 She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine,
    she has also set her table.
She has sent out her maids to call
    from the highest places in the town,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    To him who is without sense she says, 
“Come, eat of my bread
    and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave simpleness, and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”

Folly’s Invitation and Promise

A foolish woman is noisy;
    she is wanton and knows no shame.
She sits at the door of her house,
    she takes a seat on the high places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
    who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    And to him who is without sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 
But he does not know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. 

Proverbs 9 almost fits. Close enough. 


Monday, August 31, 2015

Always and Never

Proper 18    The Sunday closest to September 7
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as
you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength,
so you never forsake those who make their boast of your
mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,, one God, now and for ever.

A memory of our Harrisburg years is the time we hosted the Reverend Canon Bryan Green on a preaching mission (our term in Anglicanism is “preaching mission” instead of “revival”). The year was 1980, which as usual I remember because of the car I was driving, and during that week old Navy friends Gary and Jeri Hahn, who had been our neighbors in Japan in the early 1960s, stopped to see us in Harrisburg. I had been retired from the Navy a little over two years, and Gary also was retired. 

My recollection, which may be lacking, is that over his three or four day visit, Bryan Green preached first at St. Stephen’s Cathedral downtown, then at All Saints Episcopal Church, Hershey, and Sunday at our parish, Mount Calvary, Camp Hill. His preaching theme was “speck on a speck,” which I may remember so vividly because we went to every session at all three churches, and Bryan was such a forceful speaker, or because it so resonated with my years of obsession with astronomy, my nose in books and an eye to the eyepiece of the beloved telescope that earlier this year I gave to the Junior Museum. Starting in Cove School, my interest in astronomy seems to have triggered when we lived on top of a high ridge looking down upon a quaint Yokohama neighborhood, out across Tokyo Bay in one direction and at Mount Fuji in another, and up at a crystal clear sky of stars by night.

Bryan Green (1901-1993) had a bright life as a parish priest and evangelist of the Church of England. We were blessed and privileged to hear him, and to get to know him a bit when he came to our Pennsylvania parish. I remember during our parish reception for him, colluding with our choir director Dianne Morningstar for her to break resoundingly into “Hail Britannia” on the piano and watching Bryan’s delighted beaming smile. Just the age then that I am now, Bryan was as retired then as I am now from parish ministry, but still a dynamic voice in the Church, both in England and here in America.

Clearly based on strong faith, his preaching was fervent and persuasive, even to me. With my mind somewhere out in the open spaces of the universe, I loved his title and view that “God loves you, even you, just as you are, the way you are” he phrased it, “speck on a speck,” as in his preaching he carried us far out into the heavens to look down. Canon Green's visit, and the Hahns stopping to see us, must have been in the spring before I started seminary at Gettysburg Lutheran on my 45th birthday that September 1980. For some reason that I’ve never bothered working on, that age of my life and Canon Green’s “proclamation” as he called it, come to mind this week every year when our Collect comes round for the Sunday closest to September 7. Proper 18, the “always and never collect” my mind calls it. Always and Never are caution words that I try always to avoid and never to use. Because of them, the collect seems to carry an element of certainty beyond the confidence of faith, at least of my faith and doubt as I look back on life’s experience and out beyond the waning moon this before dawn hour and on into the blackness of space beyond space. How could Pantokrator possibly care for me, speck on a speck, just as I am, the way I am. It’s incomprehensible. Incredible. And remember, “just because I believe it, even believe it fervently with every fiber of my being, that don’t make it so.”  

That spring, Canon Green came to Harrisburg with a set proclamation, which those of us who went to every session heard him preach three or four times. True to his evangelical nature and message, he concluded each sermon asking the crowd to stand and sing “Just as I am, without one plea.” 

In the expanse of the universe, the Milky Way is so minor, and our solar system so tiny, earth just a speck, and me a handful of dirt, spit on to make mud, breathed into to give life. Dust, to dust returning. I just don’t know. 

Just as I am, though tossed about 
with many a conflict, many a doubt, 
fightings and fears within, without, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 


Sunday, August 30, 2015


Even if she holds your finger while she drifts off to nap, never bond with someone else’s baby, else they move on and break your heart. 

Bad enough bonding with my own four, who to my dismay all grew up and away. Early 1960 before Malinda was two years old, the Navy transferred us from my first ship, a destroyer in Norfolk, Virginia, to Naval Station, Mayport, Florida. One evening, we had Tom and Ann Byrne over for supper. Fr. Tom had been our rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Panama City during our years at Cove School and Bay High, and they were living in Jacksonville now. Seems to me Father Tom was either on the diocesan staff or at St. Mark’s. Holding Malinda and totally smitten, I’d said, “She’ll never leave her daddy.” Father Tom says, “Oh yes she will, let me disabuse you of that notion right now! Your job as her father is to make sure she does exactly that.” He was right, and besides my own I’ve bonded with other people’s a couple of times, not a good idea, and though that’s my hand on her as she drifted off to nap Saturday afternoon, I’m making very sure not to bond with my grandson’s daughter as she becomes more and more a person on her way to her own life. Great-granddaughter.   

Saturday: family day at our house. As the skies gathered up to storm, 

we all took a walk out on the marina, 

then back, bought ice cream at Amavida and brought it up to the condo for late afternoon snack to spoil our supper. To the girls’ disappointment, the storm skirted us but Tass snapped the double rainbow that it left behind about sunset.

And this is where I am this very early morning 

preparing to miss church and enjoy my blessings here at home as they assemble before again dispersing to the winds as Father Tom said they would.

T+ in +Time  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

love language

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (RSV)

The voice of my beloved!
    Behold, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle,
    or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
    behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
    looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away;

for lo, the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away.

+++   +++   +++

This is our First Reading for tomorrow, we’ve finished our summer’s stories of David, ending with Solomon, and now just a taste of this back and forth poem of two, a man and a woman, a boy and a girl who are head over heels in love, lyrical, flowing, the ode of each to the other. Seldom do the lectionary framers steal my heart, but they do this one Sunday in a thousand, as they give us, again, just a taste, stirring embers hidden deep. Anyone who has ever been in love, and I could wish that everyone has, might be moved to begin at the beginning, figuratively with memories and literally with the love poem, both of which come simultaneously in reading The Song from 1:1 through 8:14. I could hardly bear for it to end.

A particular line is 8:7, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” In the Bible reading above there are no closing quotation marks on the lover's call, because it isn't over. Imagine that. Coming up on eighty, I’m thinking of John Denver and Placido Domingo singing Denver’s song, “Perhaps Love,”  

If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you

… in +Time

Friday, August 28, 2015

TGIF: moon, mug & square

Gggg find a nice l.c. gamma golf gee and get going with the morning. Actually, it's nice sitting here eyes closed while fingers tap. Forgot to pick up glasses before sitting down to Kona and chocolate, but it's nice: TGIF begins with mug and square.

Early predawn dark in the city park below and to my left. Guarding against erosion, a boardwalk stretches over the bank and down to the Bay shoreline, where two or three decks allow visitors to stop and enjoy. Sometimes picnic or a wedding. When I went out at 3:55 while coffee perkled, a child was squealing delightedly on the middle deck, perhaps at the Bay with its sparkling emeralds and rubies, or the moon in the western sky teased by clouds and streaming its beam across the Bay. I've been on that deck in one of Panama City's many wonderful parks, and my seventh floor outlook is even better. Good, better, even best.

Friday. Walk. Return home for breakfast and shower. Meeting. L. M. Wait for Joe. Kristen. And my Tassa.

T+ PapaDad

Thursday, August 27, 2015


On my porch this Thursday morning late in August, the sky is clear, the Bay is flat, a small tug is crossing toward the west. A light breeze is, thankfully, pretty much lifting away the cigarette smoke that’s coming up from the porch two or three stories below me. I’m not complaining.

Yes I am, but with 72F and 66% the morning is too delightful other than to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative. And don’t mess with Mr. In-Between. How old does that make me?

Someone is fishing below, casting out some few yards. If not a regular, he’s no stranger, though we’ve never seen him catch anything. 

Tomorrow is on the calendar for a festive day. Joe arriving from NC for the week. Tass & family from Tallahassee for the weekend. Kristen home from Atlanta. Remember the cliche, a child is a person who travels through your life on the way to becoming an adult. We are no more kittens or puppies than our dogs and cats, but humans hold on longer. If I could change myself, the first thing might be to shed this agonizing trait of clinging.

Other than that? Move into this condo sixty years ago and start over. 

A pax on all smokers.

T+ in +Time