Memorial Day: Thinking about peace (video)

Sitting here on my couch.

The dog — Jackie Mudpie — sprawled beside me, sleeping.

She’s not feeling well. Her stomach is growling. She didn’t eat much yesterday. Today is a holiday. We’ll go to the vet tomorrow.

There’s been some loud hammering on our house this morning. Our kitchen had a leak, and we just had it fixed. Rain is on the way, and all is well.

It’s quiet now. It’s peaceful.

The dog is not well, but she’s resting. She’s at peace.

It’s Memorial Day, a holiday — and it’s peaceful.

And we talk about remembering those who sacrificed.

They sacrificed because there is a thing called war that we, as human beings, think is normal.

It’s not normal. It’s insane.

I never scarified. Other than books and movies and watching news, I have no idea what war is like. My whole life has been this way — lived in a war-free zone.

It’s Memorial Day. It’s peaceful. And while thanking and honoring those who served and scarified is proper and appropriate, it’s not sufficient.

We can honor them more by creating peace in the future.

How do we do that? How do we eliminate war? How do we change the way we talk about war?

On days like today, we’re drawn to words like glory and honor and sacrifice and country. And that’s good. We owe them that.

But what about including words like insanity and fear and loss and pain and grief and dying young.

How do we make a world in which Memorial Day is something that refers to a relic of the distant past?

Could each day be a work of art?

I had a pretty good day today.

First, after coming downstairs, I put a kettle on the stove for coffee.  While I waited for the water to boil, I went outside and gathered wood.  As I sit here, at 9pm, that fire is still doing quite nicely.

While the fire began and the coffee brewed, I made a large omelet with two kinds of cheese, mushrooms, and onions.  Alicia and I shared this.

After that, I think I surfed the web for a few minutes and checked email.

Then I read a short story called “YoungThing,” by Nuruddin Farah, in a recent copy of the New Yorker.  It was a sad story with considerable suspense about a young boy in Somalia who had joined a terrorist cell.

Then my daughter called in a panic.  She had to be at work and her car had broken down.  I dashed off to get her and as I drove down Innes Street my cell phone rang.   She had solved the problem.  She had run out of gas and was now back on the road.  It’s impossible for me to judge this behavior — since I myself ran out of gas just two days ago — on Thursday evening, a cold night — and Alicia had to venture out in the night with a gas can.

In the early afternoon, I went for a walk with Alicia and Jackie Mudpie (our dog).  We walked in the woods where it was peaceful and scenic.

Upon return, I got a phone call from Tapi — our family’s exchange student in 1973, and a college roommate after that — and one of my oldest, dearest friends.  We talked for a while about all kinds of stuff, including life, children, health, parents, yoga…

Then, I visited my Mom.  While there, sitting in her room, I read a tender piece by Joyce Carol Oates in that same copy of The New Yorker.  In “A Widow’s Story” Ms. Oates recalls the week in February of ’08 in which she lost her husband.  Her details are true and vivid and it breaks your heart.  Then I fed Mom part of her dinner.  Chicken.  Potatoes.  Gingerbread.  She ate, and drank, and never opened her eyes.

After that, I went to the mall and finished my daily 10k steps.  Ran into Keith and Carol Earnhardt, some good folks I haven’t seen in awhile, and enjoyed catching up. We talked about Christmas and business and children and pizza and beer.

Came home and had a bowl of soup and an avocado.  For dessert, I had a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey.

Currently, I’m sitting on the couch by the fire.  The dog is sleeping beside me, pressed against my hip.  In the kitchen, I have a cup of tea brewing.

There was some talk in the local news recently about whether a pair of underwear can be a work of art.

What about a day?  Can that be a work of art?

What if we lived each day as if it were a new work of art, and each moment of that day as if it were part of the work?  Whether we think of it that way or not (and I certainly have not done that, most of my days), that’s really what it is.


Oh two oh two two oh one oh
Not just a date, but a nice little combo

And hey
Also Groundhog day!

Punxsutawney Phil
Punxsutawney Phil (from National Geographic website)

Our Day Trip to Carl Sandburg's Home

My son has lived in the Asheville area for the past six years, and we occasionally visit.  We never spend the night, so we usually don’t have time to see many sights — usually downtown Brevard or Asheville — and the inside of a restaurant or coffee shop.

Sometimes a waterfall or two.

I’ve always wanted to stop for a visit to Connemara, Carl Sandburg’s home in Flatrock, NC.  Each time we go, to and fro, the sign that marks the path to Sandburg’s home beckons from the highway.

This time, the trip had two primary goals.  A look at the UNC-Asheville campus (for my daughter’s consideration), and a trip to Sandburg’s home (only a couple of miles from the camp at which my son works).  We also enjoyed a sandwich and pleasant evening walk through lovely downtown Hendersonville.

I like the Asheville area.  Who doesn’t?  But despite the fact that it’s two and a half hours from home, I had never been there in my life until I first took my son there to college.

Sandburg’s home is a National Park.  According to some of the literature one sees while walking the grounds, it’s the only National Park ever created for the home of a poet.  That makes sense.  It’s a special place.  I’d like to go back — with more time and with my dog.  The grounds are huge with miles of trails.  Sandburg paid a whopping $45k for the property.

We also got there fifteen minutes too late for the last tour of the day.  We still saw the house and peeked in the windows.

My wife and I did a similar thing in 1979.  We visited Wordsworth’s house when it was closed and and almost peeked in those windows (until we saw that there was a little old little old English lady inside –a  Wordsworth descendant?  I like to think so.)

Sandburg is not considered a North Carolina poet.

I remember this subject coming up in the ’70’s.  I spent college summers working in the NC mountains, near Blowing Rock (also in NC, but a bit of a distance from Flatrock).  Once, a tourist with a pencil and pad stopped me on the street and asked me if I knew the location of Carl Sandburg’s home.  I was an English major, so I told him with some authority that Carl Sandburg never lived in North Carolina.

“I think he did,” the nice man said.

Sandburg moved to Flatrock in 1945, from Michigan, because his wife wanted a better climate for her beloved goats. He lived there until his death in 1967. The literature posted around the house says that he wrote a third of his published works while there.

The bottom pictures posted here — with the horses — have nothing to do with Carl Sandburg. These were taken at Camp Mondamin, where my son works. My daughter had “never touched a horse before,” so my son helped her out. Oddly enough, he’s had a good bit of experience with horses, having had a part-time job in college working on a horse farm.

Carl Sandburg Park
from the bridge on the way to Sandburg's House
Carl Sandburg Park
Carl Sandburg's house
Carl Sandburg Park
bamboo close to the house
Carl Sandburg Park
bamboo and ivy and a little house next to the main house
Carl Sandburg Park
Carl Sandburg's house -- the side
Carl Sandburg Park
a bee on a flower

Carl Sandburg Park

Carl Sandburg Park
Carl Sandburg Park

Carl Sandburg Park
view from Carl Sandburg's porch
Carl Sandburg Park
view from Carl Sandburg's porch
Carl Sandburg Park
view from Carl Sandburg's porch

Carl Sandburg Park

Carl Sandburg Park
horses at Camp Mondamin

Carl Sandburg Park