The Wind Does Not Break A Tree That Bends

From my house to where I work is approximately 4 and a half miles. Every day that I drive it I am amazed by the splendor of the mountains that surround me. As one of the oldest mountain chains, the Appalachian’s are unique in their formation and subsequent display.

On my way to work this morning, I was reminded of and old friend of mine who I spent a significant amount of time with in East Lansing before I moved to the mountains of North Carolina.

His name was John Robbison and he was a part of the intellectual college scene that wrapped itself around East Lansing, home of Michigan State University. He was older than me and just this side of being a father figure. We would walk the streets around the town and university and talk about art, literature and life in general.

At the time I was working several jobs to stay afloat with one of them being as assistant to a sculptor that we both knew. Her name was Louise McCagg and she created bronze and aluminum pieces that mostly featured her interpretations of the human body.

On this particular day with John, he was pondering the direction of his life and told me in no uncertain terms that he had come to a major turning point in his life. I think that John’s wife had a moneyed background and John had not had a teaching job in quite some time. As we walked, John told me that he had reached a decision that he was ready to die in East Lansing and therefore had also come to the conclusion that he was also ready to live in East Lansing as well.

What this meant to him at the time was that he had been pondering the idea of opening a bookstore and with his mind now settled, he could begin the process of committing his next few years to this project.

It wasn’t long after that walk with John that “Jocundry Books” opened its doors across the street from the university. The bookstore officially opened in August, 1976, and was unique in the fact that there were chairs scattered throughout the store and people were encouraged to sit and read.

I remember that John had a copy of the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary with magnifying glass displayed and ready to use in one corner of the store. In another corner there was a large round table where people sat and on Sunday’s there would be a copy of the New York Times along with Lox, cheese and bagels and plenty of free coffee.

I think you get my drift: the store was more a part of John’s personality and really set the bar high for what a local bookstore should be.

It wasn’t to long after that I was hired to work the second shift and began what many would call my dream job. The sections I managed were religion, literature, and what was then called remainders (books that were out of print and priced to sell).

To make a long story short and get to the point I originally wanted to make, Sandi and I moved to North Carolina in August of 1978 to begin our lives together.

I vaguely remember visiting East Lansing either late ’78 or early ’79 and of course visiting my favorite bookstore. I remember telling John about the majesty of the mountains and also his succinct reply. John was from Kansas and told me that it didn’t take much to appreciate the beauty of the mountains but that it took a real poetic eye to find the beauty in mile after miles of flat plains. And to this day, that thought has stuck with me.

Also in light of Boeing’s Max 8 problems I will mention the sad follow-up to my last visit with John and my friends at the bookstore. Several months after my visit, John and a bunch of my friends and employees of several bookstores were on Flight 191 from Chicago bound for Los Angeles and the International Booksellers Convention. A flight that I would have been on had I not moved to West Jefferson with Sandi. A flight that went down on May 25, 1979 killing all 277 people onboard.

As I write this, I am amazed at how one memory can be connected with many others: almost a spiderweb of thoughts. And as to the title of this post: as the wind blows outside my house, I know that without the bending that we have done over the years, we would not be able to continue walking towards our destiny. We may have suffered a few broken branches but the tree is still standing in the ground and ready for the sun to shine another day.

Have a great “ride” toady.

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Sugar & San Francisco

My mind has always been prone to flights of fancy and as such some last a moment and others might hang around for a week or two.

One such flight is my utter amazement at the fact that two of the biggest companies in the world are built around selling what amounts to carbonated, flavored, sugar water.

I am sure that many of us baby boomers have consumed our share of either Pepsi or Coke and even though I haven’t had either for several years, I can still tell you the differences between the two drinks.

Having moved to North Carolina from Michigan in the late seventies, I was surprised at the fact that the locals seemed to consume “drinks” at most every meal. It was either that or sweet tea. And of course as a northerner, I called these “drinks” soda’s.

But I digress: the flight of fancy that perpetuated this recent post was a story I read the other day about San Francisco’s attempt to place a warning label on all sugary drinks. And of course the soft drink industry was not going to sit still and allow that to happen.

Almost three years after the cities proposal, an appeals court decided that the warning violates the rights of drinks manufacturers. The warning would have read, “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay” and would have made San Francisco the only major city to use a cigarette-style warning on soda bottles.

Now remember this is the city that has a huge homeless population and has gained media attention around the lack of facilities to take care of the bodily waste produced by this particular populous. And they are worried over sugary drinks. Kind of like getting the cart before the horse it seems to me.

I remember the last time I bought a Pepsi. I put my money into the vending machine at work, popped the top, and after the first swig, wondered what had prompted me to purchase it. After I returned to normalcy, I poured the rest of the soda down the drain and have not looked back.

Pepsico, the company that markets Pepsi and other consumer stuff, is currently trading on the stock market at about $112.00 per share. In contrast, shares of Apple are trading at about $175.00 today.

Which leads me almost to the end of this addended flight. Who would have thought that the bottled water industry, of which Pepsi is a major player, would have reached the $100 billion dollar mark this past year. That folks, is lot of water. If we had invested in this a decade or so ago, we’d all be living the high life on some tropical island paradise.

I could say more, but I have said enough for this day’s “ride”. Hope you are well fed and well watered.

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What Happened To 2018?

It is hard to believe that my last post was in December of 2017, more than a year ago. And I will have to admit that I was more than a little surprised by this.

I began this blog journey as a way to process my life after leaving the church I had been a part of for almost 20 years. Since that November of 2006 I have published 299 stories or observations that have made “Looking For The Long Ride” a part of my life.

And there is a fine line between living a life and observing that very same existence.

And this is not to say that I have not had anything to say this past year: just that the need to put it out there in type has not been one of my top priorities.

In a very real sense I have spent the past year creating memories.

Sandi and I visited friends in Florida in February and had a great time exploring all the many things that there are to do in nature; especially when the friends know the ins and outs of several of the best state parks.

We also celebrated our 40th anniversary and traveled back to Michigan (our birth state) and explored some of our favorite haunts and visited friends and relatives.

It has also been my pleasure to pickup two of my grand kids from school every Wednesday and make the trip into West Jefferson and buy ice cream at Ashe County Cheese. We would then sit in front of a store across the street and people watch until the ice cream was eaten and we would then head to my house in Boone.

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And even though I don’t remember a whole lot from my early years in school, I must admit I didn’t have a grandpa that took me out for a treat every week either. My wife says that repetition creates memories and that is what I am hoping for.

Recently I have taken up reading the Wall Street Journal. A friend started sending me links to articles that interested him and, having been a newspaper reporter for about three years, I was impressed by their objective approach to reporting the news. It seems as though most news media these days are into presenting one side or the other in an attempt to manipulate readers into a more or less hyper PC perspective.

Anyway, it has been interesting to read about the world that we live in from a “wall street” point of view. From this I have come to realize that almost everything has a monetary slant, from the food we eat to the cars we buy.

For instance, did you know that almost all fast food meat is not antibiotic free. And, even if the fast food industry had a desire to eliminate antibiotics and growth hormones, the next step would be to find a source that would enable them to purchase better stuff at a competitive price. And from a strictly monetary standpoint, that source doesn’t exist currently. Even Chic Fil A still uses a lot of chicken that is dosed with antibiotics and says that their wish is to be antibiotic free by 2020. The holdup is finding the product. In the Journal analysis the answer to better chicken and burgers is for the fast food industry to begin to put pressure on the supply chain in order for this change to be made.

So, it has been an interesting 2018 and 2019 will perhaps be even more inventive and interesting across the wide spectrum of our daily lives and experiences.

And that’s a good “ride” any day!

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Be Prepared

About a year ago I burned through several SHTF themed books that described what might happen, in fictional form, if the United States suffered a major disturbance in what might be called “business as usual”. These disturbances ranged from a banking/stock market collapse, an assault on the domestic power grid and an all-out EMP attack.

Most of the books were written by prepper types with a distinctive military and or christian background. And almost to a point, each book or author, followed more or less the same pattern of how events would unfold after such a major disturbance.

In simple terms, most of us are used to temporary or short term disruptions of our daily lives. Residing in the mountains of North Carolina, I have lived through ice and snow storms that have left us without electric power for up to 4 or 5 days. When Hugo hit we were without power for 4 days. And we were lucky to only be off the grid for that many days, as some were without power for many more.

I remember getting out my Coleman 2 burner camp stove and cooking breakfast in the basement with the door open for fresh air circulation. We lit the house with Aladdin lamps and when I finally plugged in the generator, we had water and a working refrigerator. That first night we actually watched a video on the tv that I plugged in directly to the generator.

What a life, right!

Recently, upon reflection of what I have read and the events of the past couple of years, I have come to conclusion that many of us can prepare for a week or two of no power. Then there are a very few that are prepared for maybe a month or two of survival off the grid. But there are not many who can last for a year without electricity, gas and food delivery to the local supermarket.

And this revelation led me to the realization that most of what I have read about survival after a major upheaval, has lacked what I might call a heavenly spiritual perspective. In other words, what I am trying to say is this: is there room in a SHTF scenario where God can or will take care of those who are called by His name.

Biblically there are many instances where God has intervened in human experience and provided what was needed to help people through the situations they found themselves in.

When the Israelites left Egypt they were provided with Manna to eat. And of course we all know the story of the loaves and fishes that were multiplied in order to feed the thousands who were following Jesus. These are just two examples of supernatural provision.

On the other side of that coin, is the story of Joseph, who in Genesis 41, interpreted Pharaoh‘s dreams of 5 years of feast and 5 years of famine and began to store up food for the people to eat. In this case, Joseph could be called the first real “prepper”. As I write this I am faced with the thought that even Pharaoh’s dream most likely originated from God and was therefore, also a supernatural provision, even though the fulfillment of it was worked out in the natural realm by storing up food that was being naturally produced.

I am reminded of the story of the man and the flood. Believing that God would “save” him from the coming flood, he turned down the neighbors ride out while it was still possible to drive away. He then turned down the canoe ride as the water rose over his porch. As the flood waters continued to rise, he turned down the helicopter pilots help as he clung to his roof. After the flood drowned him and he entered the pearly gates, his question to God was, “I put my faith in you, why didn’t you come and save me?” God’s answer was: “I sent you a car, a canoe and a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

The point being that we can be out of balance in our approach to solving many of life’s tricky situations including that of being prepared. Knowing that God can multiply the loaves and the fishes and also stocking up the pantry as you are able to is not mutually exclusive. We can and should believe in both approaches.

Part of our “ride” is knowing which way to turn when and if that time of “disturbance” ever arrives. Like the ten virgins described in scripture, five had oil in their lamps and extra and five didn’t and had to leave to get them filled. Only the five that were prepared got to attend the wedding banquet.

And that is one meal that we don’t want to miss.

 

 

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Nature, Nurture & Gardening In Particular

When I was a kid in grade school I remember that I often looked out the window and was more interested in what was going on outside than what the class was supposed to be doing. I am not saying that I did this often, as my memory of 4th or 5th grades is rather faded, but I do remember the teacher attempting to redirect my attention on several occasions. In today’s world I would most likely be classified as ADD and given some sort of drug in an attempt to “fix” my problem.

What I just described in three sentences was a random thought that I had as I began to describe another thought that floated to the top of my awareness as I drove to work this morning. And as I “thought” about this thought, I became aware of the difficulty we sometimes have when we try and use our words and sentences in order to shape our thoughts into something we can understand and impart their meaning to others.

Just before getting into my car this morning and driving to work, I took the almost mandatory, early morning garden walk in order to check out the progress of what I had planted. There had been a light, steady rain during the night and the air was especially fresh above the moist soil.

I was most happy with the fact that the corn seed I had planted just seven days prior was popping out of the ground and had reached about one inch in height. It had rained for at least a week before corn planting and I was pushing it to till the somewhat wet soil and work it up in order to facilitate the seeds being placed into the furrows I created to receive them.

Bear in mind that last year I had to re-plant at least three times due to torrential rains washing everything out. Add that to the years that it was to dry after planting and the seeds took a long time to germinate or the year that the crows ate it all.

But this year, all the conditions that allow a seed to sprout and grow were in my favor. After the rain, the weather was mostly warm and sun-shiney, perfect conditions for the farmer or gardener to grow a crop or two. If the soil is to wet, to dry or to cold seeds won’t germinate. In other words, the conditions have to be just right in order for a crop to form.

As I thought about this natural dynamic I also was amazed at how what happens in nature is like what happens to us from a physiological standpoint.

Lets say you want to start exercising, go on a diet to lose some weight or quit drinking coffee or any of the other multitude of changes we might want to make to our everyday lives. If the conditions are not right, the changes will never take place or will only last long enough for us to feel guilty about not following through. Just like in nature, our nurture has to find favorable conditions in order to flourish.

Just like it says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to sow and a time to reap, an appropriate time for all things under heaven. Now it’s time to stop typing and start my day. Hopfully your ride will be a good one as well.

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Fact or Fiction


Note: After my 2nd reading, I think this post may become part one of something more.

I have finally reached that point in my life where I have come to understand that not everything can be understood. On the surface what I mean by this is that we are surrounded by so much information about so many things that it is sometimes almost impossible to discern what is fact or what is fiction. Many times what we think we know about a certain subject is a subtle blend of both. Not always, but it seems in many cases this is certainly true.

On a much deeper level however, what I am trying to say is this principle seems to hold true about our memories of past events in our lives. While some are likely set in stone, many seem to be a bit foggy when it comes to the actual event coinciding with our memory of it. As we age it seems that memories seem to alter themselves to what we thought happened rather than what actually took place.

For instance, when I was young and growing up in Port Huron, Michigan, I remember asking my father for a ride into town. From where I lived on Mason Avenue, this meant about 3 or 4 miles if memory serves. His answer was that I didn’t need to go to town and again if memory serves, my unspoken answer to him was, “You don’t really know what I need!” It was at this point that I began to hitchhike into town to meet my friends. We are talking about the early to mid-sixties here so it was a much kinder and gentler world in which we lived. Not many would be killers roaming the streets in search of that rebellious kid just looking for a ride into town.

This memory is significant because I didn’t always get a ride and my walks around Port Huron and its outlying environs are the stuff of legend in my mind’s eye. As I remember, walking was my way of processing my life and the only way I could truly feel at peace. I would often walk until I was tired enough to come home and read or fall asleep. My nighttime dreams of this time are sometimes visualized as a cartographers map which includes a ground level Google map version of the same. I seem to be in the picture and at the same time looking at myself in the picture. I am sure that some of these walks at night I actually took and some are just my imagination: a further embellishment of what actually happened. Yet the dreams (memories) are precise and full of detail and feeling. There is mystery and intrigue and a sense of purpose that is deja vu to the tenth degree.

Sometimes we purposely add to or subtract from our memories and after several years of this can’t remember what was reality and what was our added fiction. Instead of that strikeout in game five of your Little League playoffs, you remember the home run in game one and your memory of that particular game becomes positive instead of a blended negative.

Just the other day my memory was jogged in another familiar/unfamiliar way. A Facebook connection reminded me of a double date to a prom in 1967 that we were part of. She said she had a picture and offered to send it along. Suffice it to say, when I saw it, I can’t say that I remembered the person I looked to be at that time. My visage was gaunt and distracted in a way that I can only say was disconcerting. I was distant with a cigarette between my fingers. I can’t say I remember the night the picture was taken but do remember some of what was unfolding around me at the time. A stormy period if there ever was one.

I guess the point here is that the past is really the past. Fact or fiction, it existed in another time and space from the one we live in today. We have been shaped by the events we have lived through, for better and for less. But in the end, we need to live in today, be thankful for the past and look towards a future that will accommodate the person we have become. Dreams will come and dreams will go: a mixture of fact and fiction, like it or not. In other words today is all that we have, so make the most of it.

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The Amazing Mr. Kite

For those of you who are familiar with what we affectionately call the “high country”, it will be easier to understand the little story I am about to unfold. Somewhere between the not so warm spring days and the cool evenings, there often are 40 to 50 mile-an-hour winds with gusts that reach even higher.

Just this week, after a couple of days of heavy rains, I was walking from the Wellness Center to Bare Essentials Natural Market, which is just across the street, not more than a fifty yard trek.

It was cold enough to wear a coat but not cold enough to zipper it up and as I began my walk up the stairs behind Bare Essentials, hands in my pockets and body bent against the howling wind, I was literally picked up like a kite and was on my way down the stairs and to a nasty fall. I was able to get my balance momentarily as I felt myself falling, coat filled like a spinnaker sail as the next gust of wind picked me up and pushed me backwards again. At this point, mentally freaked out, I was able to get my left hand out of my pocket and grab ahold of the steel rail and was wrenched back against the cement wall as my arm was twisted trying my best to hold on against the pounding wind.

I really don’t remember when I came to the realization that I had narrowly missed a serious accident and the thought of that old Amy Grant song “Angels Watching Over Us” came to mind. But it could of been bad—falling backwards down a flight of concrete steps.

However, when I told my story to the crew at work, I guess the image of “little ole me” being literally picked up like a kite was Vaudevillian enough to elicit belly laughs that the Beatles may have had in mind when they wrote “Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite” and sang:

Over men and horses hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire
In this way Mr. K will challenge the world

The celebrated Mr. K
Performs his feats on Saturday at Bishopsgate
The Henderson’s will dance and sing
As Mr. Kite flies through the ring, don’t be late

Messrs K. and H. assure the public
Their production will be second to none

Enough said. Hope your ride is better than my wind-full one.

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