Autumn’s Fire, and a Stairway.

“Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt.”  William Allingham

And as we wind on down the road

Our shadows taller than our souls.

There walks a Lady we all know

Who shines white light and wants to show

How everything still turns to gold.

And if you listen very hard.

The tune will come to you at last.

When all are one and one is all….

Led Zeppelin

Changes

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We are born, we live, we die. A simple sentence. Yet what occurs between those two commas is everything. In order to truly do this, sometimes we must embrace change as eagerly as a new lover. Sometimes, we must accept it, matter of factly – as we accept that the earth is round and the sun rises in the east. It serves no good purpose to fight it. We are human, it is our nature to adapt.

We must also recognize that our time here is finite. The Fates, capricious bitches that they are, snip the threads of life too soon for some of us. Which, in my feeble mind, makes it all the more important for me to do something with my life.

There’s an expression going around these days: YOLO (you only live once). Truth. Yet all too often I see it used as an excuse for ridiculously self indulgent, immature behavior. It’s the “Gimme Generation”s self-entitled slogan du jour. But it doesn’t have to be.

We live. Once. I would like to be part of the changes I want to see in the world. I hope I already am. I want to look in the mirror when I wake up and see someone who made a difference to someone else. Some days that’s difficult. Anyone who knows me knows I’m absolutely not -ever- at my best in the morning, so gazing into a reflective surface is going to be a terrifying experience, at least until I’m caffeinated.

Anyway, all humor aside, I just want to point out we don’t have much time, on the grander universal scale at least. We can adapt to change, learn from each other, and grow during the time we have. Rejoicing in our differences, and remembering that we are stronger together BECAUSE of them. Or, we can squander ourselves and extinguish our precious inner light with futile, utterly senseless violence, prejudice, hatred and intolerance. I know what I choose. We are born, we live, we die. Lets make those two words between those commas count for something.

Deep Peaceful Summer Reflections

 

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.  ~ Mother Teresa

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~  Lao Tzu

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. ~ John Muir

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes . . .   ~ John Denver 

In the viridian depths of the forest we find solace.  In the quiet reflection of  jade-dark, slow-moving streams there is peaceful contentment. The jewel tones of the plants and flowers are mirrored  – jade, beryl, ruby, amethyst, emerald, and pearl – colorful little surprises. There is no sense of past or future – only the Dream Time; only the Now.  The rain patters softly on the surface of the water, or the sun dazzles and dances across it.  Clouds create depth and shadow.  The water and the forest watch.  They are ours to rejoice in.  Tomorrow, all will change.  The beauty will remain for us to see. The serenity inside,  for us to feel.  We take it with us when we go.  ~ Donna Erickson

 

Flora and Fauna: A Pledge of Paradise

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Pink Bee Balm, and a Bumble. I love how you can see the delicate veining and transparency of the bumble’s wings, the yellow fuzziness of the torso ( I have no idea what the proper anatomical term is. Emma – help me out on this one please and thanks!) – and how the wings function as a transparent screen for the edge of the flower blossoms. I’ve never seen pink bee balm before. It was everywhere along one section of the Harbor Walk in Gloucester. All sorts of bees were landing and taking off – creating a lovely background hum as we strolled along.

Floral Fireworks. I think these are some sort of daisy or brown eyed Susan, or maybe some type of coneflower. Flower Salsa! Very spicy! Red and Orange Rocket Flowers – Yeah, that!

I have no idea what the name of these flowers is – but they grow on the side of the road and in fields everywhere around here in July and August. They’re the prettiest shade of periwinkle blue.

Another view of the spicy firework flowers. I applied a “soft and faded” photoshop action – and also managed to catch a couple of honeybees hard at work. In this photo particularly the blossoms are shaking their petal skirts in a gentle breeze – swaying to a rhythm only they can feel.

Just some of the vibrant beauty to be found – right in front of me. If you have a favorite of these, please comment and let me know. Thanks.

“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake – Aye, what then? ” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

English: Reproduced signature of poet Samuel T...

. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Update: The Great Floral Identification Adventure: the bee balm is in fact bee balm; the red and orange rocket flowers – they also remind me of badminton shuttlecocks-are echinacea; the blue flowers are chicory. Thanks everyone!! 🙂

Nostalgia and Summer Magic

With apologies to Mr King (I edited the tense and changed the year)

“All the same, the past feels very close just now. Maybe it’s just the golden cast of the declining summer light, which has always struck me as slightly supernatural. It’s as if 1970 were still right here, only hidden beneath a flimsy film of intervening years”. ~ Stephen King, 11/22/63

Perhaps it’s because we were both born and reside in New England, albeit different generations, but I “get” Stephen King. His writing just lingers in my brain, mulling around – until I come out with some seemingly random quote that makes sense to absolutely no one but me. The quote above fits my feelings, thoughts and mood PERFECTLY today. It’s certainly because I am on holiday from my job this week! And lastly, perhaps it’s also because my children are now officially on their summer break – which of course makes me nostalgic for my own childhood summers. So, you lucky folks get to read about that today.

1970 – We’d moved up from Westfield the previous July – over the weekend of the 19/20th to be exact. I remember watching Neil Armstrong take that historic giant leap for mankind on a 19 inch Sony black and white which had been placed upon a stack of moving boxes in our new dining room. My dad’s mother, who lived with us until 1973, remarked several times how she’d never thought to see the day. Born in 1887, she went from outhouses, lanterns and horse drawn carriages to indoor plumbing, dishwashers, refrigerators, and men landing on the moon. Who’d’a thunk it, right? Or so she said…. 1970 marked the first full official summer in the hilltown of Blandford, MA.

First Congregational Church, Blandford MA

Old Stone Wall, Watson Park Blandford MA

So what’s a (then) city girl like me to do during a small town summer in the southern Berkshire hills? Pull up a chair and lemme tell ya about it….

We had a 2 story cape on 2 acres of partially wooded land on a hillside, with a useable barn on the property. Due to spring runoff, some seriously ingenious person finagled the cellar so that the runoff cascaded down one built up side and was directed into a man made channel that bisected the cement cellar floor and then down and out the other side of the foundation. How many people can say that they have a brook running through their cellar? I always thought that was pretty cool. The system worked extremely well, and the runoff eventually made it to a roadside spring on the edge of our driveway. Man was that water ever cold, and it tasted wonderful! Bikers, hikers, and riders often stopped to fill their canteens in passing. The spring usually dried up in September. The cellar never flooded while we lived there. I happened to meet the current owner of the property recently and he told me that the cellar always floods in the spring nowadays because an owner in between us dammed up the spring, and cemented over the runoff channel in the cellar.

Childhood summers are timeless, the days blend together until the one day your mother has to take you school shopping (a half hour drive down to the city to go to Grants, Newberrys and Steigers for clothes and supplies). If the day was gonna be a “scorcher” you could always tell because the “jar flies” would be loudly buzzing. The morning sky, a bright steely grey and maybe only a breathy whisper of a breeze. Plans for such a day usually included using a bicycle or “shank’s mare”. Either way, we had to be careful because we lived on the main road to a popular summer tourist destination (Otis Reservoir) – and there was always quite a large volume of summer traffic starting Memorial Day Weekend and running through mid- September. Mom would make her grandmother’s famous lemonade iced tea (see prior post for recipe) and put some in thermoses for us. We were usually off exploring by 9:30 or 10 am.

No cell phones or iPods mind you. If we wanted music, we took a battery operated transistor radio that usually only operated on AM frequency. Here’s my 1970 playlist:

Bobby Sherman – Julie, Do Ya Love Me

The Partridge Family – I Think I Love You

The Band – Up On Cripple Creek

Elton John – Your Song

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Travelin Band

Elvis Presley – You Dont Have To Say You Love Me

The Who – Summertime Blues – Studio Version

Chicago – 25 Or 6 To 4

Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You

Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky

Blues Image – Ride Captain Ride – Single/LP Version

Dawn – Candida

Simon & Garfunkel – El Condor Pasa (If I Could)

Jackson 5 – ABC

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Lookin’ Out My Back Door

Just Me circa 1970…. not happy with Mom takin my picture…. and wearing my favorite summer shirt, jsyk…

We either had to be back to have lunch, or if Mom had packed us one, we had to be back before supper. Possessions ended up in a knapsack or placed in the carryall basket on the handlebars of the bike. My bike was THE Coolest. Turquoise blue with a “banana” seat. Plastic wicker basket with cheesy plastic flowers on it. I pumped the pedals backwards to brake. And we (my sister and me) were off. Some days we went down to the old mica quarry/swamp next door and caught pollywogs or built forts on the “islands”. (I have another story about the mica quarry for another day) Other days we ranged farther afield and rode down to the dairy farm, wandering through the fields looking for a place to picnic, and trying unsuccessfully to “scare” the cows. They’d just look at us as if to say “Are you serious?” Or we’d ride to Cobble Mt Reservoir and fly kites off the spillway. After 9/11 the reservoir is closed off but when I was a teenager we’d go up there to make out with our boyfriends (braving an encounter with the “Cobble Mountain Critter“), and take illicit pleasure from peeing in Springfield’s drinking water... I was SUCH a rebel, wasn’t I? 😉

Sometimes we’d just hang out on our own property. Someone built a platform up in one of the white pines at the top of our hill and it was a great place to view the world from -provided you could stand the “pincher bugs” that seemed to infest the dang tree. Further back from that were the “Ponderosa” Pines. These were easy to climb and there were many days you could have found me high up in the limbs. You could hear quite a bit up there- lawnmowers, chain saws and the distant hum of the traffic from the turnpike down the valley aways. There were times were I actually fell asleep up there, dreamily watching the clouds and the world go by – don’t tell my mother! 😉 We also had permission to use a tree fort on the property of a summer home on top of the hill on Sunset Road. We’d play cards and eat our picnic lunches while listening to the dj on the transistor talk over/right through the beginning of the songs. (Didn’t you just HATE that? you could never tape a song back then…)

I mentioned the barn earlier. It was red, of course. That first full summer we were there we had not yet converted it to farm use. So the horse stall became our play house. We had a “Easy-Bake” oven up there and painted the inside of the stall to look like a kitchen. It was also a spot to jump in the hay pile, as we kept the hillside scythed, dried the hay, and gave it to our neighbors who had livestock at the time. We’d launch’ from the open second story of the barn, down into the stall itself. I miscalcuated once and knocked myself out, freaking out my sister and cousins who were visiting. I woke up alone a few minutes later and started wandering down to the house – only to see the adults swarming out the back door to come to my assistance. I still have a flat spot on the left side of my head where it hit the stall wall. This would explain much in terms of my personality, would it not? (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). We’d also use the barn to play “Hogan’s Heroes” if there were enough kids – and try to “escape”. We had NO idea it was not PC to do this at the time…..

Mom had a VERY loud whistle which she used to good effect to call us home. It had a range of a least a mile or so. The tune was “Me-Do” Supper was always between 5 and 5:30. It was expected that we’d come home in time to set the table and wash up. Conversation was expected at the table. Our day could never just be “good”. We were expected to have details about what we did that day, and to share them during dinner. We also had to ask to be excused from the table when we were finished, then help clean up and do dishes. After that, we were free to go back outside and play. Generally we’d arrange with our friends to play “hide and seek” and get ready to chase the fireflies at dusk; or play flashlight tag.

The world started to turn pinky- gold by 6:30/7pm. Twilight magic time. It lasted quite awhile in those long ago summers. The jar flies stopped buzzing, and as soon as the sun dropped behind the hill it cooled off by at least 10 degrees. You could hear the sound of kids playing throughout the neighborhood. The sound coming to you as if down a tunnel – drowsily. Like listening to a conversation as you’re falling asleep. Folks would come out to sit on their front porches in their rockers, comfy chairs or porch swings . Calling hello across the street to the neighbors, enjoying the sunset and the cool evening breeze. No one locked their doors, ever. No need. Everybody knew everybody, and you can bet your sweet bippy if you did something wrong one of the neighbors would tell your parents. On the other hand – you could also go to your neighbors if you needed something and your parents weren’t home. True community living.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down the backroads of my mind. In the “Wayback Machine” – 42 summers ago. It was fun – let’s do it again, soon!

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The Truth – and the Pitfalls – of forwarding emails

I’ve had this post in queue for a bit, waiting for a few minutes to go through my thoughts and edit before I publish. So I’m sitting here on my front porch with a slight breeze wafting through the window. The storms that rolled through the area yesterday brought some cooler and less sticky air – for which my asthmatic lungs are extremely grateful. Anyway, the sun is shining brightly and the mockingbirds are making a lovely racket in the apple trees next door. The Viking had to go into work very early and the “J- Crew” (aka the Girls/Chaos and Mayhem) are still snoozing, and my “son from another mother” is snoozing on my living room couch. It’s an auspicious start to my vacation indeed!

We all get a lot of forwarded email in our mailboxes these days. If the headers and the first few lines of the content catch our eyes then we are quite likely to forward the information on to our friends. I was the recipient of such a chain email last weekend, sent from a dear, dear friend (one of my 4 that I’ve mentioned before). Here is the email, as it was forwarded to me, and my initial response. I have indicated in bold font my corrections for the parts I found to be in error.

English: Irena Sendlerowa, chairman of childre...

English: Irena Sendlerowa, chairman of children section of Polish underground Council to Aid Jews in Warsaw, who helped to save several thousands of Jewish children during Holocaust. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IrenaSendler

Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)

Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive. ( Irena was a social worker and used her position as such to advantage, playing on the Nazi fear of disease to go into the ghetto and check for contamination – but in reality she was looking for children to save)

Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids. ( Irena was a
Roman Catholic social worker and part of a group of resistance fighters that smuggled out approximately 2500 Jewish children from the ghetto.)

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. (She was part of a group of people doing this and was not the only one using these techiques to save others. She was, according to her obituary ( also see link below), directly responsible for saving about 400 of those 2500 children. Or, about 16% of them.)

Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi’s broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely. (The Nazis tortured and beat her for several days, breaking her leg and a foot. She was scheduled for execution, but Zegota – the resistance organization- bribed a guard to leave her in the woods. She was rescued and spent the rest of the war in hiding)

Nazi German poster in German and Polish (Warsa...

Nazi German poster in German and Polish (Warsaw, 1942) threatening death to any Pole who aided Jews (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted. (Verified)

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming. (Verified, unfortunately…. )

Later another politician, Barack Hussein Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN. (Although I am not a fan, by any means, I can’t figure out why this particular information was included in this email – other than the fact that it always seems to be the blowhard politicians that win these accolades – when it should be the people “in the trenches” like Irena, making a difference where it counts most – one person at a time.)

In MEMORIAM – 65 YEARS LATER

I’m doing my small part by forwarding this message. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

It is now more than 65 years since the Second World War in Europe ended.

This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated! (With the exception of the six million figure, these numbers are overstated, and some groups of people left out – see my response below for the accurate figures.)

Now, more than ever, with Iran , and others, claiming the HOLOCAUST to be ‘a myth’. It’s imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again. (Some people are just too dumb to see the indisputable truth.)

This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world. Please send this e-mail to people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain. Please don’t just delete it. It will only take you a minute to pass this along.

Here’s my initial response:
This was really moving. However, the figures listed at the bottom were incorrect. There were anywhere between 11 and 17 million people who paid the ultimate price for Hitler’s Final Solution. These figures include numbers from Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen (the SS paramilitary death squads) who were directly responsible for at least 1 million of those deaths. Including the 33,771 killed at Babi Yar in just two days. Most information I read suggests 11 million as the most popular quoted figure. Personally I think 17 million might be too low. In any case, these figures include 6 million people of the Jewish Faith. The rest are gypsies, Russians, The Developmentally Disabled, those 1900 Catholic Priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses,and people from what today would be termed the LGBT community. Also, artists and intellectuals who disagreed openly with the Third Reich‘s policies. It is not known exactly how many others were tortured, raped, beaten or otherwise injured, although a baseline figure could be generated by looking at the Camp Censuses. (which would not include those abused who were not sent to the camps).

If you apply the “six degrees of separation” theory then these atrocities affected, and continue to affect EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the planet – then, now, and in the future. We must not forget, and we must be accurate and factual.

Sent from my iPhone, Donna

And upon further reflection:

I would say that this email affected me (no kidding, right? since I’m writing this) greatly on several levels. We have to make sure that this information is disseminated accurately. Otherwise the people with the blinders on have even more reason to call into question what happened to all these people. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. This should never happen again, so we have to make sure we have the facts and pass them along without the hyperbole.

It also really bothers me that hardly anyone ever mentions that Hitler started these “ethnic cleansings” using the developmentally disabled – to “perfect” his killing methods – before moving on to the Jewish and other ethnicities. The developmentally disabled continue to be an undervalued, underestimated and disenfranchised group even today. I’ve worked with the DD population for almost 30 years and find they are so much more than they are given credit for! It is very important to include them up at the top of the list of those victimized by Hitler and the Third Reich. We must never forget ANY of those who suffered and died. So, the point I am finally arriving at is this: please try not to forward these types of emails until you verify the facts and discover the truth. When we have idiots out there questioning whether or not this even happened it is more important than ever that we get, and keep, our facts straight. We all know the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions……

“Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory.” ~ Irena Sendler, in a letter to the Polish Senate 2007

Aaron Copland;London Symphony Orchestra – Fanfare For The Common Man

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Fanfare for the Common Man (Youtube)

Irena Sendler’s Obituary

Irena Sendler, Warsaw, Poland, 2007

Irena Sendler, Warsaw, Poland, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)