Some days it is more difficult than others to go on my morning walk. Today was one of those times. The sky was overcast, it had been raining, and more was in the forecast. Still, I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and keep my commitment. I don’t know from where the reluctance comes because getting outside and having time with my thoughts is always pleasurable. It’s where a lot of my best ideas have been generated. Still, there’s a voice that tells me it’s OK to take a day off. Given that I know how much benefit I’ll derive from the outing, it should be much easier to tell that voice, “Shut up!”
Today, health and creativity triumphed. I found this composition just a couple of blocks from our home. The rain made everything glisten and the overcast sky made the red winch really pop. A lot of things had to line up for this image to get created and it all started with honoring the commitment I made to myself.
This is an item whose looks change with the position of the light and whether it’s in color or black and white. I chose monochrome because it looked more dramatic. The interesting thing is I had walked by this scene for at least three weeks and thought there might be something there to create, but just never got the right angle or the light I wanted. Today, it just screamed, “Take my picture,” as I walked by. I stopped and obliged. Then I lingered as the light changed. That moment of pausing led to moving the items around until I came up with this image.
It reminds me of an extreme close up of a record album whose grooves had been warped by the heat. I doubt the folks who manufactured and packaged these rolls of weatherstripping saw them as objects of art, but I did…though it took me a while. I encourage you to keep looking for beauty in the small things. The discovery is more than worth the effort.
I read a Ghandi quote the other day that I like very much, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” I’ve been taking time to focus on my surroundings for a number of years, but I find retirement has given me the luxury to go into super slow motion at times and really examine my world more closely. Beauty is all around and it’s nice to find it in the small things.
There’s a lot of construction in our neighborhood and I’m always curious about what features are being put in new homes, so I occasionally do a quick tour while on my morning walk. On this day, I was rewarded with a bundle of nails casting a great shadow.
Paris is a fascinating place and Parisians seem to avoid being boring like the plague. One does not want to be seen as “ordinary,” so they find ways to set themselves apart while being immersed in the cultural fruit salad that is Paris. Fashion comes to mind immediately and that is certainly on display everywhere. I have never seen so many different styles of eyewear. But there’s more to individualism than one’s wardrobe. It’s also in how you get from place to place. Not just cars, buses, and motorcycles, but scooters, bikes, unicycles, skateboards, and battery operated uniwheels. The jury may be out, but my vote goes to Parisians for their transportation oneupmanship. With the population coursing along the veins of the city like so many well dressed red blood cells, people still find ways to carve out a little space for themselves like the fellow in the first image.
With Paris being the city of love, it is not surprising to find places where people express their undying affection for their partner and one of those places is the Ponts de Arts Bridge featured in the second photo. What started out simply enough by two lovers has quickly mushroomed into problem for cities across the world. After sustaining damage to the bridge from the weight and weathering of the locks, Paris officials have the locks removed at least once a month. Your love may be forever, but that lock with your initials is gone in 30 days.
Part of the charm of old cities are the narrow streets and the buildings crowding them. Paris has those in abundance. In order to make transportation work here concessions have to be made. Cars are smaller. Street maintenance vehicles in Paris are the size of clown cars in the U.S. People are gifted at parallel parking and because there will always be bozos who want to pass you on the passenger side, city fathers have installed posts to prevent these jerks from going up on the sidewalk.
We took in part of a mass at Notre Dame cathedral and beauty of the soloist made the hair on my arms stand up. No matter what your beliefs are, it would be hard not to be moved by the music. The structure lived up to its billing, though I have to say I was more in awe of Sainte Chapelle, featured in the fourth image. The term “jawdropping” gets overused, but it is an apt description of this small chapel. When we came through the door the place was jammed and everyone was looking up. It is visually stunning, well maintained by the staff, and worth twice the price of admission.
Going through small shops and talking to the owners is something we enjoy. While strolling on our last Sunday in the city we came across Anatolie Kilim, a small rug store. It was closed, but with all the gorgeous things we saw in the window, we made plans to come back the next day. The owner, Enbiya, has the place filled to capacity with neatly folded kilims of various sizes and colors. He learned the business from his father, but went out on his own due to friction in their relationship, which has healed over time. He travels regularly to Turkey and gathers his inventory by visiting villages. Enbiya spent a lot of time explaining the weaving process and the symbolism of the figures found in the kilims. As Enbiya worked with us he was constantly moving his glasses off the bridge of his nose up to his forehead, so I decided if he would get in front of my camera that would be how his portrait would get created. We were looking for a rug for the entry of our home and it would have to be long and narrow. Enbiya searched his inventory and found one that fit our dimensions and it perfectly complemented the color palette of our home. It was the only one of its kind in the store. Go figure. Enbiya made purchasing the kilim a joyful experience and our interaction with him made our trip just a bit more special.
The Pompidou Center is the home to one of the largest collections of art in France and while not shown in the photograph, it is best known for being an “inside-out” structure with conduit, vents, and all kinds of tubing on the outer walls of the structure. It is also a great place to view the Paris skyline and it is where this image of Sacre Couer was created.
As we made our way back to our hotel on our last evening in Paris, we were treated to a wonderful sunset over the Seine as a barge made its way up the river. I’ve been on some great trips, but was always ready to return home…until now. We had such a wonderful time that we could have stayed for another two weeks.
In planning our trip to France we decided to have a more structured time in Normandy and Paris would be seen at our leisure. There was no schedule and no agenda. Our only goal was to have a romantic getaway doing what we wanted. I highly recommend it regardless of your age.
You can find whatever you’re looking for in The City of Lights. We chose not to listen to the negatives and focus our energies on finding the beauty and fun available outside our hotel room. There was plenty of it and it was easy to find. Staying on the Left Bank in the Latin Quarter made everything easily to reach. Our hotel offered a great complimentary breakfast, a complimentary bar in the evening, and a comfortable lounge with a large fireplace…great locations to start and finish the day.
Each day over breakfast we picked a location and walked as much as we could to see what different areas of the city had to offer. If something interesting showed up on our route we would check it out. Since you’re never far from a restaurant in Paris, we would frequently stop for a drink or a snack to enjoy the atmosphere of the bistros. There is so much interesting architecture in the city, I wished my head was on a swivel. Archways, doors, knockers, and gates are ever present and many are unique. We loved all of the international restaurants and the unique passageways through the center of some city blocks that were lined with little shops and great places to eat. You want to have dinner at an Italian restaurant located in a basement courtyard? No problem. It’s 6:30 and you want gelato at the coffee shop down the street that’s open until 8:00? That’s a problem. While you can get coffee prepared in a multitude of ways, thirty-six varieties of flavored teas, and all kinds of chocolates, gelato is not sold after 6:00. The explanation for this house rule got lost in translation so the problem was solved with American ingenuity. We went to the market around the corner, purchased two pints of our favorite flavors, and retreated to the hotel lounge to consume it in front of the fireplace. I think our disappointment disappeared after the second spoonful.
No one day was better than another. They were all wonderful. Walking along the banks of the Seine holding hands with the person you love is the best.
I’ve always enjoyed art and I have a soft spot for the Impressionists, so I was really looking forward to a visit to Monet’s home in Giverny. I was familiar with a lot of his work and had seen photos of his home and the grounds, so I felt prepared for the visit…but I wasn’t. First, there were a lot more visitors there than I expected and they came from all over the world. The nice weather had them filling up the narrow pathways through the garden and almost every good view was blocked by groups of self-absorbed young ladies taking selfies. Patience prevailed and I was able to get enough good images to provide a flavor for this wonderful place. It’s also much larger than I expected and crammed with all different types of flowers that create an explosion of color. I don’t know how the gardeners select what varieties of plants to place next to each other, but their process is masterful. It was the last week of September and the place was as lush as a jungle. You almost felt the need to keep moving in order to avoid being caught by the tendrils of some rapidly growing plant. A truly gorgeous place and worth the effort of dealing with the hordes of tourists. Next time, I’ll get there before they do.
On our last day in Normandy, we persuaded our guide to let us spend a good part of the morning in Honfleur as our short visit the day before just didn’t do justice to a place of such beauty. We were blessed with a clear, sunny morning with just a slight breeze. Honfleur is located on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine across from le Havre and is known for its beautiful old port. Lined with houses with slate fronts, the waterfront provided inspiration for many painters including Claude Monet, Eugene Boudin, and Gustave Courbet. It is a wonderful place to sit with a beverage and just get lost in the environment. Though the town is small, I would happily return for two or three days just to wander through the shops and spend time on the waterfront.
Rouen is the capital of Normandy and located on the River Seine. Being a port city, Rouen received its fair share of attention during WWII when more than 45% of its buildings were destroyed. It has recovered nicely and the medieval section of the city with its half timbered buildings is well worth seeing. There are few places in the world where you can eat in a building dating back to the 1400’s and only one where you can look over the square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. You can do both in Rouen.
The Cathedral of Rouen dominates the city’s skyline and is an architectural marvel. I suggest bringing along binoculars so you can see all the details in the structure. Flamboyant gothic is the style, with an emphasis on flamboyant. The cathedral with its three towers inspired Monet sufficiently that he made over 30 paintings of the church. One of the towers is called the Tour de Beurre (The Butter Tower). In the Middle Ages, the consumption of butter was forbidden during Lent, but people could bypass the rule in exchange for a donation to the church. Evidently the people of Rouen liked their butter enough to finance a very impressive structure. The interior is grand with the best examples being the Booksellers’ Stairway and the rose window and organ located near the entry. The church also contains the sarcophagi of Richard I and Rollo, the Viking king whose success at fighting the Franks led to the creation of Normandy.
We left Rouen in the early afternoon for Jumieges and its wonderful abbey, sometimes called “the most beautiful ruin in France.” Located on one of the meanders in the Seine, the abbey was founded in the 7th century and is an excellent example of Norman Romanesque architecture. The weather was sunny and cool, which made the stroll around the grounds just a bit more wonderful.
L’ Eglise Saint Martin
Our guide started the day by taking us to a chateau owned by her relatives. Both appeared to be in their late 70’s and the lady of the house was an avid gardener. They were a delightful couple and, upon discovering we were Americans, made a point of thanking us for what our country had done for France in WWII. People here have long memories and continue to be deeply appreciative to those who made sacrifices on their behalf. It was very touching.
We spent part of the morning driving through the Calvados region, which resembled farm country in Illinois and Indiana. There are quite a few dairy farms here, but this part of Normandy is noted for its apple orchards and its potent cider, which is named for the region. We stopped in the country and walked down a long lane before arriving at the small chapel featured in the first image. Unfortunately, it was locked and all we could do was peer in the windows.
After that, it was on to the town of Beuvron en Auge, which is often described as one of the prettiest towns in Normandy and we saw nothing to dispute that during our visit. After lunch we wandered around town and enjoyed the architecture. The Eglise Saint-Martin is a wonderful small church with a fascinating cemetery surrounding it. Decorations on graves in France are distinctly different than in the U. S. and we discovered that plots are not owned in perpetuity, but leased for a specific time period. Once that lease expires, it is up to the family to renew the lease or the plot will be leased to someone else. We didn’t find out what happens to the remains. Just a different take on death than we have.
All in all, a very nice day and a deeper immersion into the culture of the region.
It’s about 10:15 on a rainy Saturday morning and I’m driving around Lake City, Florida looking for something that will create an interesting image. When I see a building with a weathered exterior, I start looking for a place to park and pull my car in next to a small antique shop that doesn’t open until 10:30. After getting a couple of compositions that look good on the back of the camera, I walk back to the car. Just as I’m putting my gear in the back seat, the door on the antique shop opens, a man emerges, and strikes up a conversation with me.
As it turns out, Bill is a rather engaging fellow. Pretty soon our discussion has moved from the parking lot to the inside of his shop, which is pretty much filled to bursting with smaller antiques and many of those are rings and necklaces. We talk about retirement. Bill was a professor at the local community college for 30 years and opened the antique shop to supplement his income. We discuss travel. Bill and his wife have done a fair amount. We chat about overseas mission trips we’ve taken and the benefits we received from those ventures. The topic of children and grandchildren comes up and the conversation continues. We cover the merits of living in Florida versus other states and agree it’s a pretty good place to be. At some point the topic of mortality gets raised and there’s something else we have in common. Cancer. Bill’s wife had a very serious reaction to chemotherapy and it was touch and go for a while. She’s bounced back and they are quite involved in music with their church; she plays the organ and he leads the choir.
When I asked Bill if he ever thought of getting a larger place his response was, “Yes, but I decided against it. I knew I would just fill it up, too.” It’s always time well spent conversing with someone who possesses great self awareness. If you happen to be in Lake City, I highly recommend stopping at Duval Cottage Antiques to see what he has on display.
Name: Bill Poplin
Job Title: Shopkeeper
What do you like most about your job? I find it hard to pick between the old things and people, but I think it is the old things that bring us together.
What is the hardest part of your job that no one knows about? Pricing things. It’s not always fun. My prices are based on observations…what the local market is and what I paid for it. If someone asks if I can do better on a particular item, my answer is, “Probably.”
If you weren’t doing this work, what type of work would you be doing? I have a property rental business on the side and I would focus more on that.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at age 16, what would you say? You will encounter difficulty in life. Never, ever give up. Keep your faith. You are not alone.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? This came courtesy of my grandmother. “Scratch it if it itches, even if it’s in your britches.”
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bayeux dates back to the 11th century and though not the oldest or largest cathedral in France, it is stunning! It was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror, king of England and Duke of Normandy. Another must see is the Bayeux Tapestry, which was kept in the cathedral until 1793. The tapestry is nearly 230 feet long and 20 inches high and depicts the events leading to the Norman conquest of England and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. That it has survived over 950 years is amazing and its clarity and detail must be seen to be believed. Kept in a light and climate controlled chamber, photographs are not allowed, but there is a wonderful narration on each of the 50 scenes. I just don’t have enough superlatives to describe what a fascinating piece of history it is. Bayeux was also renowned for its lace and there is plenty on display in windows all over the city.
We like to take at least one “big trip” each year and last year it was two weeks in France split between Normandy and Paris. Monica had visited Paris several times, but this would be a first for me and neither of us had been to Normandy. We did a lot of research in creating our itinerary and had the help of Chantal Littleton, an outstanding travel planner suggested by our friends Rod and Pat Cochran. After some clarifications on what we wanted to see and how we wanted to experience the country, Chantal created a schedule that met our wishes. We decided to go at a leisurely pace and experience the places more deeply. That was a great decision.
Though France is a popular destination, feedback is decidedly mixed and travelers’ opinions vary. People tend to love the sights, but comments about the people often terms like rude, haughty, and aloof. We experienced none of that and can say without reservation that our trip to France was one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken and we were treated with kindness and helpfulness in every location we visited.
Our first few nights were spent near Bayeux, not far from the D-Day beaches. It is a beautiful city that was spared from the bombings during the invasion. As our guide walked us along the narrow streets and the old homes explaining the history of the city, we were taken in by the beauty of flower boxes in nearly every window. At the end of the day, the lady who selected our guides and arranged our transportation invited us to her home for tea and cookies. It is one of the oldest structures in the city and featured a watchtower complete with a very narrow winding stairway, quarters for the guards, and slits for bowmen. The hospitality we were shown more than made up for the less than desirable weather.
I cannot say what attracts me to certain locations and why, in some cases, that attraction has lasted for decades. It is enough that the attraction exists. Places like Shawneetown, Illinois where I started school, Loogootee, Indiana where I graduated high school and returned for my first real job, the Shawhan farm near Union, Indiana, and Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana have all continued to call me back numerous times over the past several decades. I’m sure a few of those visits can be attributed to nostalgia, but I rarely spend time chasing ghosts from the past nor do I yearn to go back in time to claim some missed opportunity that might have altered my future. Still, there is a certain pleasure I derive from being in places that hold mostly pleasant memories from my past; strolling along familiar sidewalks and revisiting favorite haunts. It continues to amaze me how the physicality of these locations is much smaller than my memories of them. A case in point is my grandparents’ home, which I thought was pretty big when I was growing up. How that three bedroom, one bathroom farmhouse held 65 people at Christmas almost defies the laws of physics.
My attraction to the Southwest started on a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico with my parents in the late 50’s. Even though I didn’t return for many years, that part of the country was continually calling me back. I read every National Geographic article I could find and marveled at the photos I saw in Arizona Highways. In the early 1980’s, I attended a seminar in Tucson, Arizona and it dawned me that my college years would have been quite different if I had attended the University of Arizona instead of Indiana University. Given all the distractions I saw there in three days, it’s possible graduation might not have occurred in four years or a lot longer. For me, the Southwest does not get smaller when I revisit. I just gets bigger and more awe inspiring each time I return. The expanses are larger, skies bigger, and distances between points greater. The more things I see, the more there is to see. It does not diminish, it expands. The attraction grows stronger and I have no intention of resisting. I’m going back at the end of April to spend time in New Mexico with my good friend, Geraint Smith, and then go on a solo adventure for a few days in the area around Tucson. It will be an awesome adventure and I look forward to just going along with the pull of that attraction and being fully present there.
The only thing better is to be in the tractor beam that brings me back home.
The image above was created just off the Santa Fe Plaza, in the historic district.
In late June 2017 a Canadian Army sniper killed an ISIS militant from a distance of more than two miles, which is the longest confirmed rifle shot on record. With the best equipment available, it still took 10 seconds for the bullet to reach the target. Given the conditions and all the variables involved, this is an amazing accomplishment. However, I submit this was only the second greatest shot in history. Nearly 60 years before, in the summer of 1958, four months shy of my 9th birthday, I killed a hippopotamus in Africa with one shot from a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun while sitting in my grandparent’s living room in rural southwestern Indiana. Since you won’t be able to find any information on the event on Google and two of the three people who were present that day are long dead, this account will have to stand as the historical record. Perhaps some background information will help you understand this amazing feat.
My dad was a crack shot, a great teacher, and a stickler for weapon safety. The first lesson I was taught was to treat all guns as if they are loaded. I learned quickly and was on my way to be a good rifle shooter when he bought me a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun for my 8th birthday. For a time, I was the scourge of paper targets, sparrows, and starlings in our neighborhood. Then my weapon stopped working. Try as he could, my dad could not get it to shoot BB’s. The weapon would cock and discharge, but nothing would come out of the barrel. My weapon had been reduced to an “air rifle” because air was the only thing coming out of the barrel. Even so, it was my constant companion in neighborhood battles between cowboys, Indians, or whatever groups we decided were going to fight on that day. The number of “air bullets” I fired at my playmates from both long and close range was in the thousands and I never missed.
In early June, Mom and Dad had to go out of town on business for a few days, so that meant I got to stay with my Grandpa and Grandma Shawhan at their farm. It was a great place to be a kid because there was always something to do from hunting, fishing, or skipping rocks across the pond. L. J. and Minnie had married young and raised eight children. That would have been tough enough on its own, but challenges brought by The Great Depression and the rationing that accompanied WWII tested their mettle. Still, Minnie leaned into her faith through it all. Though she seemed to be perpetually tired from all her responsibilities around the home, there were no complaints and she bore her burdens with a remarkable, quiet grace. I don’t recall ever hearing her laugh out loud, but there were times when you would see her smile and the joy would show in her eyes. Strong language, tobacco, alcohol, and playing cards were not acceptable under her roof. Grandma Minnie was just one of the kindest people I ever met.
How L. J. and Minnie got together and stayed together is one of the great mysteries of the 20th century. Grandpa was just about the opposite of Minnie in every way. He was loud, coarse, overweight, and smoked Kool Menthols for years. Perhaps L. J. had other talents, but the one he was known for was the ability to expel methane at a volume loud enough to rattle the windows in the old farmhouse. He greeted the arrival of grandchildren with a feeling similar to seeing locusts descend on his fields. In L. J.’s world grandchildren would only eat his food and tear up something before leaving. His opinion was based on certain experiences. He had been ejected from the back of a farm truck by one grandchild, had his car’s gas tank filled with water by another who was playing gas station, and had his morning reverie of a peaceful breakfast shattered when another grandson surprised him by discharging a small explosive device that showered him with confetti and ribbons. Reflecting on those events, I think his view of grandchildren was justified.
I tried to give Grandpa a wide berth and stay on his good side. He didn’t put up with a lot of crap and was quick to let you know when he had enough. Usually, Grandma heard the ruckus and, like Jesus on judgement day, intervened on our behalf.
L. J. didn’t have many valuables, but one of his treasures was the 21” black and white console television that sat in the living room. It was here that everyone gathered to watch Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Wagon Train. This was also the only time L. J. thought grandchildren could be useful. Grandpa was not skittish about using us as two-legged remote controls.
The day that would change my life started out like most others on the farm. After getting dressed, I walked through the living room and propped my BB gun in the corner before going to the kitchen for breakfast. Grandma didn’t allow guns at the table. Following the meal, Grandpa went off to do some chores, Grandma cleaned the kitchen, and I headed to the living room to watch TV. Picking up my gun by the barrel, I made my way to the television and turned it on before plopping down in a small upholstered swivel chair to watch one of my favorite shows: Ramar of the Jungle. It was the story of Dr. Tom Reynolds whose parents were missionaries and he returns to Africa to treat the natives. In this episode, the good doctor and his faithful sidekick Professor Howard Ogden were crossing a river when they were suddenly menaced by a hippo that was about to flip their small boat.
Instinctively, I grabbed my rifle and cocked it as I brought it to my shoulder. Just as Dad taught me, I lined up the sights on the hippo, exhaled, and squeezed the trigger. Like it had done thousands of times before, the air rifle made a slight popping noise and the hippo slipped to the bottom of the river. In my mind the beast was a goner because I don’t miss. Ramar and Howard would thank me later. But I immediately sensed something was different about this shot. The familiar popping noise of the gun was quickly followed by a distinct ping. The place where the hippo had been on the TV screen was now occupied by a small hole surrounded by a circle of broken glass fragments a bit larger than a quarter.
For a short time, I had an out of body experience and time stood still as I examined what happened. On the floor in front of me was a BB, which, at that moment, appeared to be nearly as big as a softball. It had been lodged in the barrel for months and picked this moment to come out. It struck the glass plate in front of the TV tube and then rolled back toward me. There was no fixing the glass. It would have to be replaced.
The moment I reentered my body, everything began to move at hyper speed. I knew I wasn’t going to see my ninth birthday. My folks would kill me for embarrassing them and having to buy Grandpa a new television. But I also knew that wouldn’t happen because L. J. would take me out as soon as he saw the TV. I didn’t know what he was going to tell Mom and Dad about my disappearance, just that I would be in an unmarked grave somewhere on the farm. My heart was pounding. I knew there were only moments before my misdeed would be discovered and I had to do something to buy enough time for my getaway.
Using all the logic my eight-year-old brain could muster, I had a stroke of genius. Running to the bathroom I returned with a bath towel. I stuck one end of the towel under the planter Grandma kept on top of the television and draped the rest over the front of the screen. No one would notice that. In the time it took me to cover the fifty feet between the TV and the front door to the house, I realized there was no place for me to run. The best I could do was get to a safe place beyond L. J.’s reach and stay there until he calmed down or Grandma would show up and save my life, though I wasn’t sure she was up to this task.
There was only one option; the big sugar maple tree in the front yard. It had lots of leaves for cover so it would be tough for Grandpa to get a clear shot at me with one of his guns. He was too overweight to do any climbing, and though there was a concern that he might be mad enough to cut the tree down with me in it, I knew the sound of the chainsaw would get Grandma’s attention.
As I reached the highest limb that I thought would support my weight, I heard the front door open as Grandpa bellowed my name. “Ron! Ron! Where the hell are you?” “Up here, sir,” I replied. “Did you shoot the TV?”, he inquired. Young as I was, it was still clear to me the list of suspects only had two names; mine and Grandma’s since we were the only people in the house. I briefly thought about asking him if he would be willing to spare my life if I pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of improper use of a bath towel but decided to do the right thing. “Yes, sir, but it was an accident”, I said. “You get your ass down here right now”, he emphatically responded. Based on the volume and tone of his voice, I determined he wasn’t all that interested in my motives. There was a dead TV in his living room, and he was going for some biblical retribution. “No, sir. I’m just going to stay up here,” I replied.
That reply led to more threats, which made me more determined to wait until Grandma Minnie arrived on the scene. Luckily, it was only a few minutes. Once she heard from both sides, Grandma said something to Grandpa that I couldn’t make out and he unhappily walked away. When he was out of sight, she convinced me it was safe to climb down and assured me that nothing bad would happen to me. I knew her word was good.
As it turned out, the TV wasn’t dead, only wounded. My folks offered to buy L. J. a new one, but he declined, saying, “Leaving it this way will be a reminder to all of the other little shits that come here to visit.” It was, but not like he intended, or perhaps it was exactly what he hoped for. The cracked glass would remind all my aunts, uncles, and cousins to ride me about shooting the television for the next 40 years. Not one of them talked to me about my incredible accomplishment of killing a rogue hippo with a single shot from a BB gun at a distance of over 7,000 miles. I’m still waiting for a thank you card from Ramar and Howard.
The sugar maple tree is still standing in front of the farmhouse. It looks a bit worse for wear, but so do I. The last time I visited, I had an inclination to climb it one final time, but my good sense took over. I did accept its invitation to sit in the shade for a while with my back against the trunk, which was just as comforting as its branches had been 60 years before.
On the banks of the Seine in the Tuileries Gardens you’ll find Musee de l’Orangerie. Originally built to protect orange trees in the winter before they were planted, the building now houses an impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings and one sleepy young man, who was not stirred by Monet’s “Water Lillies” or any of the numerous works by Cezanne, Matisse, Rousseau, and Modigliani.
Unlike the youngster, Monica and I found the museum to be delightful and a must see for anyone who loves Monet. You can learn more by clicking the link below.
While walking the neighborhood a few days ago, I saw two pennies along my route. They had been there for a while and were showing considerable wear from the time they had spent on a busy street. Though the stamping on each side was almost gone, I didn’t hesitate to snatch them up and carry them home. My views on money were largely shaped by the adults who influenced me as I grew into adulthood. I spent a lot of time around my maternal grandparents and paternal grandmother. All had lived on farms in rural Indiana, didn’t have a great deal to start with, and had weathered The Great Depression, which profoundly impacted them. My Dad was in his early teens during the worst of it while Mom was not yet in elementary school. After that came WWII and rationing, so the Shawhan and Richardson families knew how to stretch their meager resources to make ends meet. That last bit of ketchup in the bottle could be mixed with water to make something resembling tomato soup, but mostly it was a warm, flavored liquid that was better than going hungry. Dad’s income from his mining and construction business was spotty, but Mom and he were always able to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, though there were stretches where bologna on crackers and chicken noodle soup were frequent entrees.
I learned to scan the ground while I walked. It was a good day if I found soda bottles that could be turned in for a few cents at the local gas station. It was a great day if I found coins. All of that “found money” went into my piggy bank, which wasn’t a pig, but a small black ceramic teapot Mom gave me. Mixed in among the coins was some “folding money,” the term Dad used for paper bills. Those came to me on birthdays, Christmas, and whenever the grading period ended. I learned early that being a good student could have financial as well as academic benefits. The real treasures in the teapot were my $2 bills and silver dollars, which were not to be spent under any circumstances. The lessons I learned about saving, discipline, and delayed gratification continue to serve me well.
Though I don’t know how much money I’ve picked off the ground over the years, I can remember the most I found at one time. Late one evening after a basketball game I pulled into a gas station. As my tank was filling, I decided to wash my windows and found a $100 bill near the trash can. That was a very good day. It’s pretty rare to find paper money and most of what I get are small coins, but I stop and pick them up without fail and they go into a repurposed large plastic Planter’s Honey Roasted Peanuts jar. It takes about a year to fill the jar then I take the contents to a store with one of the change sorters. The last payout was almost $280, which I think is a pretty good investment for being observant and willing to bend over.
I’ve been a lot of places in the U.S. and have noticed that almost without fail it is those of us in a certain age group that tend to pick up coins. Younger folks do not appear to be interested in small change. Perhaps they are focused on becoming the next great social media influencer or internet entrepreneur. I wish them well. Less competition for me.
For me, these bicycle tracks on the beach are a visual metaphor for relationships. There are people to whom we stay close for long periods, while we interact with others from a distance. Events seem as likely to bring us together as they are to move us apart. While it would be easy to infer that long-term relationships have a higher significance or greater meaning, I have experienced brief encounters that changed the direction I was heading, so length does not equate to impact.
Monica and I like to say that when things are going well, we are in relationship and when they are not we’re in relations**t. Our goal is to have a lot more “ship” and a lot less s**t.
This is an image that was created because my phone was ready while my “professional” camera was safely in my shoulder bag. I’ve missed enough decisive moments to know this one was too fleeting to get the DSLR out. While there are a few elements present that typically comprise good photos, there are more that could be added to a “Don’t take it” list:
The primary subjects have their backs to the camera
The light is flat
The sky has no clouds
I like that the lady with the bag on her shoulder and the man on the hotel wall are both wearing long coats and are going in the same direction. That the hotels across the street from each other use the same typeface makes me wonder if they have the same owner. I wish this could have been made in front of a Scottish pub to stay true to the heritage of “Loch Lomond,” the song whose lyrics are in the title, but alas, all of these visual elements were on display in front of an Irish pub on a side street in Paris. My life is filled with little disappointments. :-)
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is in the “Four Corners” region of the U. S. near Chinle, AZ. It has been home to native Americans who have lived there uninterrupted for over 5,000 years. Today, about 40 Navajo families live there, tend livestock and farm a small portion of the almost 84,000 acres that comprise the monument. The history of the peoples who made the canyon their home can be seen in the ruins and petroglyphs found there.
We booked a full day with one of the Navajo guide companies and were treated to an exceptional tour. The canyon is both unforgivingly harsh and breathtakingly beautiful. The shadows cast by the rock formations when the sun is low create sharp lines on the rocks and canyon floors.
This image was created on our way out. You can get a feel for the immenseness of the place and the steep, and often sheer, walls on both sides.