Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Reading Recap

Looking back (photo by my brother's wife)
I often make a list of all the books I read or listened to the unabridged version during 2017 (read paper or electronic copies: 34, listened to: 8). This year I decided to try to categorize them, which isn’t a perfect science.  There are some books (such as Theroux, Kingdom of the Sea and Bunting, Love of Country) that I debated whether they should be nonfiction of memoir.  And then there’s Engels, Woman on Verge of Paradise, that probably goes in the memoir column, too, but it’s just too funny not to be under humor.  While I wrote a number of reviews (17), I realize that I didn’t write one for my favorite book Herr’s Dispatches. I listened to the unabridged audio version of Herr’s memories as a Vietnam War correspondent twice.  I should also go back and write a review for Herr’s book along with Engels’ ”Paradise.” It’s pretty clear that within certain categories I enjoy books of certain subcategories (historical fiction, nature and travel).  It is also easy to see that certain books (like memories and biographies) are more likely to be reviewed by me.  Books less likely to be reviewed include those I listened to and poetry.  There were a few books that I have read before.  As a kid, I read Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe (and attempted Kidnapped). I had read Staael’s New Patterns in the Sky fourteen years ago, but reread it for April’s A-Z Challenge.  There were other books that I read significant portions of (such as Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians) but they didn’t make the list because I couldn’t say that I read them cover-to-cover.  Here’s my list:

Books read in 2017: 42  * indicates a review in Sagecoveredhills

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Robert Lewis Stevenson, Treasure Island
*Robert Harris, Pompeii
*Michael Morris & Dick Pirozzolo, Escape from Saigon
Robert Lewis Stevenson, Kidnapped
*Frederick Buechner, Son of Laughter
Paul Young, The Shack 
Alice Hoffman, The Dovekeepers
Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

*David I. Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret history of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe
Dava Sobel, Longitude 
*S.  C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon
Julius D. W. Staal, The New Patterns in the Sky: Myths and Legends of the Stars.
*Timothy B. Tyson, The Blood of Emmett Till 
*Rosalind K. Marshall, Columba’s Iona: A New History 
*David Whyte, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America  
Hall and Padgett, editors, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a World View
David McCullough, The Wright Brothers  
Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History 
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit 
Craig Barnes, Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism
Valerie P and Michael P. Cohen, Tree Lines
Madeleine Bunting, Love of Country: A Journey through the Hebrides
*Paul Theroux, Kingdom by the Sea

Memoir and Biographies
*Doris Kearns Goodwin, Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir
*Raymond Baker, Campfires Along the Appalachian Trail
*Jane Dawson, John Knox 
*Archibald Rutledge, God’s Children 
*John Lane, Paddle to the Sea: Eleven Days on the River of the Carolinas
*Archibald Rutledge, Peace in the Heart
Michael Herr, Dispatches

Alexis Orgera, how like foreign objects: poems
Nicola Slee, Praying like a Woman 
Rosie Miles, Cuts
*Danielle Lejeune, Landlocked: Etymology of Whale-fish and Grace
Anya Krugovoy Silver, Second Bloom
Carl Sandburg, Honey and Salt

Tom Bodett, The End of the Road
Robyn Alana Engel, Woman on the Verge of Paradise

Carl Hiaasen, Razor Girl

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Landlocked review

I wrote this back in the early summer and never got around to posting it... There's some good poems here. The author has been a part of a writing group that I participate with in Savannah.

Danelle Lejeune, “Landlocked: Etymology of Whale-fish and Grace (Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 107) 65 pages

This is a delightful book of poems with wonderful images of bees, cooking, chores around the farm and home, children, secrets, broken relationships, and new horizons.  Lejeune, the child of Cajun parents, draws from her roots in Louisiana, across the Midwest including time on a hog farm in Iowa where her children were born, and on to the coastal plain of Georgia where she now lives.  Many of these poems are inspired by people: her parents, her children, and her ex-husband.  They capture the difficulty of leaving the past behind. In “What Brings Her Ghost Back,” she tells of the difficulty of exorcising her mother’s ghost which reappears by the way she kneads dough in a manner reminiscence of her mother and how her mother’s laughter is heard in her children. It is evident that Lejeune carefully chooses the stories and words that make it into her tightly woven poems.  “I smile and laugh and pretend words cannot break me,” she concludes the poem, “Monsters and Mouthfeel.” But that’s only a dream as Lejuene demonstrates. Words and memories carry the power to destroy. Yet, words also hold the power to build and the keys to grace.  

I recommend Landlocked: Etymology of Whale-fish and Grace.  The readers will delight in Lejeune’s use of language and metaphor.  This is a book one will want to pull off the shelf over and over again in order to revisit those poems.  Lejeune also works with the Ossabaw Writer’s Retreat.  

Friday, December 22, 2017

My Brown Nosed Dog

Mia in my office
This morning, just minutes after the recap on MSNBC of how late night comedy poked fun of Vice President Pence for his over-the-top praise of Trump in a cabinet meeting, Mia was making it obviously known that she was wanting to go with me to the office.

"That dog lives up to his brown nose," I was told.

"Yeah, I think I'll start calling her "Mike Pence."

"Please don't, that's humiliating.  Besides, we don't need a dog with gender issues." 


If I don't post again before Christmas, I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and that my Jewish friends had a very happy Hanukkah.  It has been a busy but productive fall and the first couple months of the new year will continue along in the same vein.  But it's all fun.  I have been reading a lot, however, but just haven't gotten around to writing reviews for a number of books (and I doubt I will write more than one or two).  

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Introduction Mia

At B&D Burgers
A dog friendly restuarant 
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we hit a few pet adoption fairs and ended up at the Humane Society where a shaggy pooch was sitting in a crate out by the front desk. Mia was the dog of the day.  She seemed mellow with a beautiful face.  The papers indicated they through she was a terrier/Irish wolfhound mix.  We weren’t so such. We looked around the other dogs available and then came back and asked a few questions. At the invitation of the director, we decided to take her out into the yard where she came alive.  She enjoyed playing.  It had only been five days since we said goodbye to Trisket and we didn’t know if we were up for another dog right yet, but realizing a sucker when she saw one, the manager suggested we take Mia home for a sleepover.

After some searching on the internet, we are pretty sure that she is mostly a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Not only does she look a lot like them, she also have many of their traits.  In the past week and a half, I’ve had her at my office, taken her to a dog friendly restaurant, and taken her fairly long walks.  She is a little overweight (the vet thought this might have come when she was neutered and wasn’t getting enough exercise, which is supposedly common with female dogs).  So she is on a diet.

Napping with Mia on Sunday afternoon

At Sunrise, on a walk
Someone had surrendered a great day (often dogs here are surrendered by those in the military who are deployed or sent to posts where they can’t take dogs). She has a wonderful demeanor.  Inside, she is mellow and outside she is frisky.  She fits in well and we feel blessed by her presence.  We've nicknamed her Mimi.  

Sunrise (on an early morning walk

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Peace In the Heart

I know this is a long book review, but I found much to enjoy from reading it and sadly I doubt few of you will have the pleasure as it is hard to get. On a good note, we've adopted a rescue pup (she's between 2-3 years old and fits right in) so the house is not nearly as quiet as before. She is totally different from Trisket, which is good. I'll introduce her soon.

Archibald Rutledge, Peace in the Heart (New York: Doubleday & Co, 1930), 316 pages, no illustrations

Archibald Rutledge was the poet laureate of South Carolina for forty years. During his long life, he published nearly 50 books, mostly on outdoor life and poetry. He also wrote for a number of outdoor magazines. Born in 1883 in McClellanville, SC, Rutledge grew up on Hampton Plantation. His ancestors included a long list of South Carolina royalty including a signer of the Declaration of Independence. As a child, his father, “the Colonel,” took him hunting and fishing. He attended high school in Charleston and later Union College in Schenectady, New York. Upon graduation, he taught English at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. During this time, he continued to make regular trips back to Hampton, especially during the Christmas break. In the 1930s, he moved back to South Carolina and devoted his life to the plantation and writing. He would live out his life at the plantation, except for the summer months when he headed to the beach or the North Carolina Mountains. Shortly before his death, he sold the plantation and remaining land to the state of South Carolina. Today it is maintained as a park.  

Peace in the Heart was first published in 1927. At the time, Rutledge was still teaching in Pennsylvania. There were a number of editions, the last published in 1947. Sadly it is out of print and hard to obtain. A friend who introduced me to Rutledge and loaned me her copy of this book. Desiring to have a copy for my library, I was able to find copies of this book for sale (but not on Amazon) and with a hefty price tag of  $200 or more! If you want to read it, I would recommend checking libraries.

The book is a structured series of essays that follow the movement of the day and seasons. Rutledge starts at sunrise and spring and ending with night and winter. He finds God’s hand in the cycles of the day and the year.  “[W]e who love Nature sense that all seasons are divinely ordered,” he writes. “God takes our hands gently in spring” (28)

Drawing from his keen observations of nature, Rutledge explores life. An example of his observations is seen in the interest he took in a mud-dauber” (type of wasp) who built his dirt home on one of the beans of Rutledge’s porch.  He kept knowing the dirt off, but the wasp kept rebuilding it.  Each load of sand that the wasp mined near the creek, took him four minutes to obtain and each rebuilding, the sand home took on a redder hue as the wasp increased the portion of clay, hoping to build a stronger home that would last (279-80).

Rutledge professes his Christian faith, but at times I wondered if his faith is more influenced by the natural world than the Word or Bible.  “Face to face with Nature, we are face to face with God; and I for one believe Him to be the God of love as well as the God of law. That I cannot see Him troubles me not.  I find him in His works, in His constant abundant blessings, in the nature of the human soul” (76).  He thanks his Creator for supplying necessities and extras.  Sunlight, air, water, food and shelter are necessities.  Moonlight and starlight along with music, perfumes, flowers and the wind crooning through pines are extras to be enjoyed.  (15) After telling of a friend who had been dying, but gained strength and recovered after hearing a bird sing, he notes how God “does not love us with words: He loves us by giving us everything we need in every way” (16). While acknowledging his own sentimentalism and how nature writers are criticized for being sentimental, he wonders why it’s seen as a bad thing (68).  Toward the end of the book, he reports on how a German scientist came to the conclusion that wild things cannot reason. Rutledge then sarcastically quips, “Well, they get along remarkably in a world in which reasoning men have a pretty hard struggle to succeed” (283).

He finds the natural world so intriguing and peaceful, suggesting that nature plans for life and not death (243). Obviously he overlooks the life and death struggle animals have in the wild. Although a hunter, he doesn’t glorify the killing of animals and in one story in which he went duck hunting but left his gun on a tree by the launch, he muses how he was glad for often a man who takes a gun leaves his heart at home” (110). He finds that by observing natural laws we can keep out of trouble, drawing on how animals know on instinct how to act (51) and that the natural world knows to obey such universal laws and not to attempt to make a bargain with the Almighty (56).  While he has obviously learned much from scientists, he suggests that we other types of questions that the scientists don’t ask.  “What does this mean in terms of the spirit? What does all this beauty and intelligence suggest to the heart?  What can I learn from my own soul by surveying in thoughtful love the sounds of God’s wild children” (253-4).

Moving through the day, he explores storms and issues that arises with high water levels.  He finds that our hearts rise in storms, which is why they can be a blessing (78), while providing us an opportunity to shelter others and “develop our sympathies” (86). After the storm has passed, we can rejoice that we have survived and the peace we find in such deliverance (90).  High water, especially where fresh water pushes into salt water, creates unique situations.  He tells about a beach in South Carolina in which bathers were horrified to see a large alligator, washed out to see in high water, delighting in riding waves in the surf (107).  Interestingly, he did not include a chapter on drought and the unique ways low water levels open up new opportunities to explore.  

A couple of chapters were devoted to two individuals who were influential in his life.  Prince was an African American boy with whom he grew up.  His family had live on the plantation as slaves. After emanation, both of his parents worked at the plantation. His mother was the cook for 40 years and his father brought in the firewood and on the cool mornings would be fires in the hearths throughout the home. In Rutledge’s book, God’s Children, there are more stories about Prince.

The other individual to whom a chapter is devoted is Rutledge’s father. Colonel Rutledge fought in the Civil War and was the youngest Colonel in the Confederate army. He was wounded twice (at Malvern Hill and Antietam). While fighting, he had a slave with him, who saved him at Antietam, at risk of his own life and took him back to safety in Virginia. Rutledge tells of his father visiting him when he lived in Pennsylvania. They had driven down to the Antietam battlefield where a guide was describing the battle to them and mentioned, unknowingly, about the “gallant Colonel Henry Middleton Rutledge” of the 25th North Carolina Infantry.  Afterwards, his father introduced himself to the guide (217-218).  His father was a kind man and would often go to buy groceries and come back empty handed, after have given the groceries away to those in need.  Rutledge in admiration of his father and writes:    

“What a man’s worth is in this world depends on the kind of wake he leaves behind him as he passes.  If my Colonel came home empty-handed in a material way, it was because he had ‘bestowed all his goods to feed the poor.” His riches consisted not on what he brought with him but on what he left behind.” (208)

As for the slave who had saved his life, Rutledge tells his father’s story of a government agent who were visiting African-Americans that may have fought in the Civil War to determine their eligibility for a pension. This former slave told the agent (who was working on commission) that he was in the war all four years, omitting which side he had served during the war. To Rutledge’s father’s delight, he was granted a pension. After his wife died, he married a younger woman and at the time of the writing of this book, she was still receiving his pension (218-219).  

Rutledge seems, however, to be most at home alone in the woods. He has a chapter on solitude and another on worship in the wild.  He talks joy and delight in the world and the animals within it.  He seems much more interested in the animal kingdom than plants, only mentioning flowers and trees in passing.  But with his intimate knowledge of wildlife, he believes that God delights in the world and it’s just another example of God’s love for us.  Although he doesn’t dwell on sin, Rutledge does not that only the human race is able to live “in opposition to his physical instincts” and to act as if he’s immortal (161). However, he does appears to have a concept of the incarnation, suggesting that the knowledge of God’s presence and love should be comforting as it means our foes are already defeated (177).

Like his book, God’s Children, there are also some paternalistic views in this book that would be considered politically incorrect in today’s world.  This comes out mostly when he talks about his father’s friendship with his former slaves.  Writing decades before the Civil Rights movement, Rutledge learned from his father that “while equality is often impossible, brotherhood never is” (210-211). This he appears to have accepted unquestionably, but his views were probably more enlightening than most during the 1920s.

I do recommend this book (if you can find a copy) for I found Rutledge’s views of nature to be much aligned with mine.  I like the analogy he made between water lilies and human beings.  Lilies appear to be floating on the surface, but what we don’t see is that they are tethered to the earth.  We, too, need to be so anchored.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

You’re Such a Good Boy

Trisket (taken last night)
Over the past year, I often watched you sleep.  At times, your legs would twitch and I imagined you dreaming of when you were younger and could run with grace.  In your sleep, were you still circling the house at full speed, stopping only to chase squirrels up trees? 

Over the past year when we would take a walk, I would take the lead and you moped behind.  As I slowed down to your speed, I would wonder if you recalled dragging me along behind as we headed into Hastings or up the canyon by Cedar Creek.

Over the past few months, when I watched in sadness as you bumped into walls and furniture, your cataracted eyes glassed over, I wondered if you remembered the hours we’d play in the kitchen. Your sharp eyes followed my hand as I tossed popcorn. You’d snap each kernel out of the air, seldom missing.

Since moving to Savannah, as you struggled in the humidity and heat, I’d wondered if you recalled how you loved the snow, running through it as you scooped it up with your snout and tossed it in the air, snapping at the falling flakes as if it was popcorn.

I am thankful that to the end, when you would stand beside me, you’d press your neck on my lower thigh, at the right height for my fingers to bury themselves in your beautiful mane. And I always loved how you’d stand into the wind, letting the tufts at the end of your ears fly back, as you sniffed and enjoyed the breeze.  Sadly, I missed our long walks around town, our hikes in the wood, and how you sat like General Washington in the middle of the canoe as we floated down river.  

You were so gentle with that little girl, the one who picked you out of the litter and named you for a cracker. You always looked out for her and for that reason alone, I am eternally grateful. The two of you grew up together, but you grew old much too fast. Seventeen years is a long time for a dog, they say, but it’s not nearly long enough.  

The house is way too big, lonely, and sad tonight. I keep listening for the sounds of your clanking tags and the tap of your toenails on the hardwood, but only hear the cold rain splattering on the deck out back. We’re all going to miss you, Trisket.  You were such a good boy, a pretty boy, a big furry fluffball!
My favorite picture of Trisket and me (2007)
Taken on the Thornapple River

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Day on the Water (Updated with New Photos!)

I found the photos I lost from my camera. I had taken a few shots with my camera for work, and I had moved them (along with the others) to my work computer.  So now you can see the cute crab!

I took last Friday off and for the first time in a month had a full day to kayak. It was a beautiful day for early November, clear skies and temperatures in the low 80s. Leaving  the Landings Marina on the north end of Skidaway Island, I paddled out into the Wilmington River with the falling tide.  Along Cabbage Island, which sits on the north side of the Wilmington River, I stopped to relieve myself of some coffee and explored a little creek that flowed through the marsh.

Creek on Cabbage Island
                                                                            At the mouth of the river, where it opens into the Wassaw Sound, I turned left, skirting around Cabbage Island toward Little Tybee Island.  Here I saw a magnificent bald eagle circling above, it’s white head and tail feathers very visible..  Sadly, the only camera I had with me was my iPhone, so I was not able to get a decent photo.

 I’ve paddled to Little Tybee before, but always from Tybee Island, so this was a first from this direction.  There are some long shoals around the east side of Cabbage Island and I made it just in time as I pushed my boat through 6 inches of water.  Another few minutes and I would have been walking and toting my boat across sandbars.  The shallow water continued on until I was in the waters of the Bull River, which also flow out into the Wassaw Sound.
On Cabbage Island,
looking back across the Wilmington River

I ate lunch on Little Tybee and found a place to sling a hammock, but the bugs were pretty bad as the island was blocking most of the wind on the southwest side.  Instead of being annoyed by bugs, I set out to paddle across the face of the sound, where it empties into the ocean.  It was slack tide, which meant the shoals from the Bull River extended out into the ocean.  The only encounter with any waves this trip (and these were small) was when I crossed those shoals.  Had I tried to stay further inside the sound, I would have run aground on sandbars. 

Approaching Wassaw
(Battery Morgan is to the left of the trees)

Coming up on Wassaw Island as the tide was turning, I noticed the remains of Battery Morgan is now well out into the water at low tide.  This “fort” was built during the Spanish American War to prevent ships from getting to Savannah through the Wilmington River, but was abandoned after only a year or so.  Today, all that’s left is a large chunk of concrete that is slowly eroding away from the island.

It was much more pleasant on Wassaw Island, as the wind coming from offshore kept the gnats and flies away.  There are tracks of ghost crabs running on the sand and I spot one and chase it into the nook of an old tree where I capture some incredible photos (however, when I started posting to this blog, I can't find those photos).  I then nap before riding the rising tide back into the Wilmington River and to harbor.  I’d been gone a little over six hours and had paddled somewhere around 13 or 14 miles. 

The Lost Photos:
Ghost crab

From Wassaw, looking at Little Tybee

Inland Lagoon on Wassaw

Kicking back on Wassaw

Battery Morgan at low tide

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Some thoughts

I have been pretty busy lately and not into writing more than what I have to write for my profession and some magazine pieces that I had committed to. Sorry, I haven't been keeping up with everyone.  The next few months also look busy so I am not sure how often I'll be around here.  If you have something that's really good, shoot me a note or email.  As for this post, it is something that's been bothering me and I posted it on my Facebook page this morning and it got a lot of attention, so I thought I'd post it here, too.  I took the full moon photo with my iPhone in early October from Tybee Island.

What is truth? This morning’s “Wall Street Journal” has an article about the on-going hearings about Russia’s influence in American elections. It appears that such interference goes beyond trying to influence the election and is an attempt to divide us. It is especially disconcerting how they have incited racial fears (setting up their own “Black Matters” accounts and “Back the Badge” accounts) to raise tensions between police and African Americans. They even promoted an opening of an Islamic Center in Texas while setting up a counter site (Heart of Texas) to protest the center.
Be careful with what you “like” on Facebook and Twitter and other such media outlets. Are you just “liking” something because it confirms your own bias? I’m sure I have done so in the past. We need to learn how to evaluate the reliability of what we read. Our news sources may not be able to give us the truth (that’s a religious and philosophical topic) but they should be truthful. And, one final thing, be very careful of inflammatory headlines and people who feel they must yell over others! Just my two cents for today....

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

David Whyte, “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America,” (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 323 pages including notes, bibliography and index.  No pictures.

While attending a poetry workshop on Iona in June, I learned of this book and was intrigued.  When I got back home, I picked up a copy and read it back in August while in North Carolina on a planning leave.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was better than I expected.  Whyte is a British poet who moved to America and found himself involved with corporations as he attempted to encourage their creativity with the use of poetry.

You’d think that management and poets would avoid each other.   After all, management is attempting to maximize the productivity of employees and poetry does little for the bottom line.  Work is about doing, while poetry is about being (20). However, Whyte suggests that both need each other.  Without poetry (and the arts) corporations becomes soulless, and poetry without the corporate world becomes useless.  Poetry can help businesses have employees who are better-rounded and who are creative.  To tap into the creative process of individuals, souls must be nurtured and emotions understood.  Of course, this begs the question as to what is the soul.  And there are no easy definitions or ways to understand the soul. 

It’s not just poetry from which Whyte draws meaning.  He draws from all kinds of stories as archetypes of our experiences in life and within organizations.   There’s Dante, lost and walking in the dark woods and Beowulf facing not only his fears, but the mother of his fears.  He explores the luring passions of fire around which our storytelling and language began, and the Irish myth of Fionn and the need for mentors to teach a new generation to rise even further.  He draws from the wisdom of Greek myths that point to our need to become elders, and to the English poet Coleridge observing the chaotic yet orderly flight of starlings.  In addition to the above who became major themes within individual chapters, he draws from a host of others throughout this book such as Franz Kafka, St. John of the Cross, Goethe, the Bible, the Gilgamesh, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paulo Neruda, T. S. Eliot, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Chinese mythology, Robert Burns, William Blake, William Butler Yeats, Zen, Native American and African legends, Matt Groening (“Life in Hell” cartoons), among others.   

This is not a how-to book on saving corporate America.  Instead, it is a complex book that invites us to consider stories with ancient truths and how they might help us navigate the complex world in which we find ourselves.  

Whyte sees poetry as a way that corporate America can foster the well-being of the souls of employees and thereby allow them to bring creativity into the organization as they navigate the path between imposed orderliness and chaos.  This book is over twenty years old and I know he has revised a new edition.  I wonder if  he addressed how poetry might address Enron and the current political nature of our society.  

  •  The poet needs the practicalities of making a living to test and temper the lyricism of insight and observation.  The corporation needs the poet’s insight and powers of attention in order to weave the inner world of soul and creativity with the outer world of form and matter (9)
  •  Corporate America desperately needs the powers historically associated with the poetic imagination not only to see their way through the present whirligig of change, but also, because poetry asks for accountability to a human community, for rootedness and responsibility even as it changes. (10
  • “If work is all about doing, then the soul is all about being: the indiscriminate enjoyer of everything that comes our way.  If work is the world, then the soul is our home.”  (20)
  • Work is a series of events.  The soul, as James Hillman says, turns those workaday events into experience.  (22)
  •  But at three in the morning, when we are alone, our defenses are down, and we cannot sleep, the huge green hand rises from below and drags us into something hitherto ignored, deeper and more urgent (37)
  •  The harder point is that the fears are almost always irrational.  You cannot reason them out of existence.  If you could, they would have gone long ago.  What does it take to have the maturity to admit the lake is there and then the deeper courage to slip beneath its still surface.  (46)
  • The only real question is not one of winning or losing, but of experiencing life with an ever-increasing depth.  The storyteller says, why not go down… (71)
  •  Those circles of fire were the pivot around which our storytelling and language began.   We must have listened to the first stories over the crack of twigs, with our faces warmed by the fire’s heat and our backs chilled by the surrounding dark.  Little wonder that fire lies in the center of what we understand to be alive and engaged. (81)
  • I think we all live with the hope that we can put off our creative imperatives until a later time and not be any the worse for it.  But refusing to give room to the fire, our bodies fill with an acrid smoke, as if we had covered the flame and starved it of oxygen. (92) 
  • We like the idea of heaven but feel safer when it remains on the other side of existence.  (104)
  • But at the crucial moment, just as it is ready to gather its just reward, the older, experienced side of us will watch helplessly as the eternally innocent and inexperienced young fool, blessed by the grace of luck and youth, simply in the right place at the right time, wanders innocently into the clearing and takes the treasure for which we have worked so hard. (168)
  •  In a country dedicated to the ideals of personal freedom, there has been endless opportunity to be a numberless corporate clone completely replaceable by another corporate clone.  (213)
  • Like a dream, it is astonishingly accurate at taking the measure of our present struggles and indicating the path we are on.  But the impotent thing is not to over interpret the image or the dream.  We place too much burden on it if we are too quick to say it must mean this or it must mean that.  The main point is to live with the image or the dream and let it work its magic on us. (235)
  •  Rilke:  “Stop choosing, he says, between chaos and order, and live at the boundary between them, where rest and action move together.  (242)
  • Living systems, according to John Holland, a maverick and inspired student of complexity, “never really settle down.”  Holland and his colleagues are finding that the plants and animals that do settle down do not survive for very long.  It is as if life is forever trying to keep itself exquisitely balanced on the edge between chaos and order, always about to fall into the imprisoning forces of an overly ordered world on one side and the seductive calls of complete chaos on the other.  (252)
  •  Poets encounter the same problem.  For instance, how to work with the difficult cussed aspects of life without being dragged into a whirlpool of self-pity… Holding on to the gritty particularities of life even as we delve into deeper levels of self-revelation, we reel out the same golden thread Ariadne passed to Theseus to guide him through the Cretan labyrinth.  Attempt to go down without this slight but glowing line back into the world, and we perish, as the self-entangled poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton did, devoured by the minotaur of the self-referential ego.  Their poetry had a riveting intensity, but it did not include a great soul world that could save them from their individual personalities (257-8)
  •  Drawing upon the lessons learned from the starlings: Trying to run complex companies, big or small, by imperial command, from the top down, may be the single most unnecessary burden carried by any corporate manager…  It also carries an implicit lack of trust in the essential elements of the system—people. (269)
  • Stop treating people as if they are dangerous vehicles about to spin out of control unless you are constantly applying the brakes.  Educate them into everything you know, ask them to learn more than you know.  Show them not only how to find the brake but the accelerator as well.  (272)
  • Poetry is the art of overhearing ourselves say things from which it is impossible to retreat. (287)
  •  Without failure we have no possibility of appreciating or praising the life well lived, the work well done, a place well taken care of, or the greater ecology that makes up our home. (288)
  •  Preserving the soul in corporate America means reclaiming all those human soul qualities sacrificed on the altar of organizational survival. (295)

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Iona to Skye

candles at farewell servic
This is a posting of my trip to Scotland from back at the end of June and early July.  This picks up where I left off on my "week on Iona" post.

I wake up dreaming.  It’s my last morning in Iona and in the dream, I’m returning to the bakery to work. It has been many years since I worked there (in reality, I left that job over 30 years ago).  I was dropped off by the 13th Street entrance. I rang the bell, but then remembered that I had a key.  I was sure it wouldn’t work, as it had been so many years, but discovered it did work. I stepped into the plant and then woke up.  Of course, I haven’t had a key to the plant since I left and the bakery closed in the mid-90s.  When I woke, I looked out the window at the gray dawn.  I dressed, brushed my teeth, and finished packing up before going down to the dining area for breakfast.  I left my pack in the foyer, where it was to be picked up and taken to the ferry. Today’s breakfast is early, at 7 AM.  We eat quickly, in time to walk down for a 7:30 AM chapel service.  The ferry leaves at 8:15 AM. 

             The ferry is filled with folks with whom I’ve spent the past week.  Many of them came over on the same ferry the previous week.  We didn’t know each other then.  Many are now returning home, but I have another week to travel in Scotland.  As we gather our luggage and load aboard the ferry, the Iona staff gather to tell us goodbye.  We wave as the ramp for the ferry is raised and soon we’re racing across the sound.  It is drizzling but the water is calm.  There’s a bus waiting for us at Floonphort and we quickly stow our luggage underneath and are soon on our way across the Ross of Mull and Glen More, back to Craignure.  An hour and a half later, we arrive and the ferry to Oban is waiting.  There is no time to explore.  Most of those who’d been in the poetry group sit together on the ferry.  Knowing there won’t be time in Oban to eat lunch (which is a shame as it’s known for its seafood), several of us have lunch on the ferry.  I have a breakfast roll with bacon and egg (essentially a large yeast roll split in two with the bacon and egg stuck in between the two halves).  The talk is light as we know our time together is coming to an end, but that we’ll still have a train ride ahead.

A view of a loch from the train
We leave the ferry in Oban and walk across the street where the train is waiting.  It’s just two cars and quickly fills up and minutes after boarding, pulls out.  Most of the group is heading to Glasgow and begin making plans for dinner, but I’m getting off the train after about two hours, at Crainlarich, where the Oban branch connects with the West Highlands line.  I depart at the station and realize that there is not much of a town, but there is a small restaurant on the other end of the station.  I order a bowl of soup and some coffee as I wait in the dry room for the northbound train for Mallaig.  There’s perhaps fifteen of us, who’d come in from Oban, waiting for the train.  It arrives about thirty minutes later.  After they separate coaches (one set goes to Oban), we board.  There are not enough seats and ten of us find ourselves sitting on our packs between cars.  The conductor complains that they were supposed to have four coaches, but were given on two.  For the next hour, we sit uncomfortably and crouch a little tighter as it seems more passengers are getting on than off at each stop.

Crainlarich station 
What I could see from my perch on my pack, the train was passing through some incredible scenery with tall mountains and rivers.  At Tulloch, we picked up a group of four Germans who are spending twelve days hiking in Scotland.  They are about my age, three women and a man, and had decided to jump ahead.  As they board, they bring with them some of the dreaded Scottish midges (a biting gnat).  The next thing I knew they are biting me. The woman sitting next to me tells me that they had only been bad for the last mile or so of their hike. As we couldn’t really see scenery, we spend the time talking about our favorite hikes in various parts of the world.  One of them had hiked in the Sierras and seems impressed when she learned that I’d hiked the John Muir Trail. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct 
At Roy Bridge, a number of folks get off and the vestibule on the train where I’d been crowded in was pretty much left to me and the Germans.  They and about half the train gets off at Spean Bridge and I’m finally able to find a seat.  The mountains are spectacular as we head toward Fort William.  The train pulls into the station, then backs out several miles to where the mainline continues to the east, running along streams.  Between Lock Eli and Glenfinnan, we slow as we come around a bend before crossing over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. This stone arched bridge is truly a work of art and was featured in the Harry Potter movies.  The tracks kept heading east, through Lochailort and Beasdale, running through a number of tunnels.  At Arisaig, which boasts a harbor filled with sailboats, we can see the ocean again (or at least the Sound of Arisaig).  Off in the distance are the steep cliffs on the Isle of Eigg.  Leaving here, the train heads northwest to Morar, and then on to Mallaig.  The hills are grassy and heather populates the rocky ground with ferns in the low places.
Glenfinnan Station
South of Mallaig
Mallaig from the ferry
The train pulls into Mallaig late.  Across the platform from us is the Jacobite train, a tourist railroad featuring wonderfully restored dining cars and pulled by a steam engine.  They make daily runs between Mallaig and Fort Williams.  I wish I had time to check out the train, but have only a few minutes to make it over to the ferry terminal for the ferry to Skye.  In no time, we’re sailing.  I’m sad I didn’t have time to spend in Mallaig, but am curious about Skye, a place where my ancestors supposedly sailed from when they headed to America in the mid-18th Century. 

Ferry to Skye
I hiked here for a late dinner
I have reserved a spot at an Eco-Camp that is just off the ferry dock.  I hike in and am given my choice of several spots, picking on that seems best for a hammock.  I realize there is no place to eat (there is a coffee shop/ice cream parlor by the ferry terminal does breakfast and lunch, but it closed at 6 PM, before my ferry arrived.  I’m told the Ardvasa Hotel has a good pub and is only a mile or so away, so I head down that direction.  I sit outside and enjoyed a wonderful burger (I wouldn't normally order a burger, but this was made with local beef and I'd been mostly vegetarian during my time on Iona).  Rounding out the meal were fries, a salad, and a bottle of Skye Red beer.  The total came to 18 pounds, but as I learned, things are expensive on Skye.  I enjoyed the meal while watching the soft light of the northern latitudes in summer. It was 10:30 when I got back to my hammock.  It had been an exhausting day.  I was in bed by 10:45 and asleep shortly afterwards. 
View while walking back to camp