Friday, December 30, 2016

Anniversary





"Anniversary Song" was written by Steven Digman, a gentleman about whom I know little, other than he wrote an amazing song that was recorded at some point by Eva Cassidy.  This I know about Eva Cassidy.  She has one of the most spectacular voices I've had the pleasure of hearing.  And that she died in 1996 at the age of 33.  In, as they say, relative obscurity.  Her voice, her interpretations, her pacing...all of it...enchant and captivate.  Hers is a voice you hear not only with your ears but also with your heart.

As this year dissolves into melancholy vapors and the new year staggers toward us like a newborn colt, I'm grabbed by the thought that we all are experiencing another anniversary.  A day I put much more value upon than I do other significant days, including birthdays.  Though we all simultaneously (time zones excepted) experience the end of one year and the beginning of another, that experience is as unique as stars, or grains of sand, or snowflakes.  Simply put, we individually own each anniversary.  We personally inherit a fresh beginning.  And though we mourn those people in our lives who didn't make this particular anniversary event, we cannot help but celebrate the enormity of the opportunity.

The chorus of "Anniversary Song" goes like this:

I never thought I'd get this old dear
Never had a reason to live so long
And the Lord's been like my shadow
Even when I was wrong
No I never thought it would turn out this way.  

Though compelling, the words alone don't do the song justice.  Eva's voice and the music which accompanies her, however, form unforgettable art.  That said, these words have stamped themselves on my soul.  The writer is said to have commented:  "Not being a religious man myself, I still think that if you live long enough, into your seventies, then God must have been there somehow."

Now I don't deign to suggest that Mr. Digman meant something other than what he said, but here's what I hear.  What I hear is that the older you live, the easier it is to recognize God's hand in your life.

I wonder how many of us thought it would "turn out this way?"  Whatever way that is.  I'm going to guess there have been some unanticipated twists and turns in your life. Along with those times when you pause and contemplate how you got to the place you find yourself today and consider the question:  how in the world did I get here?  

But here is what I like about one year ending and another beginning, this fresh anniversary and the blessing to be able to experience it:  we have a fresh opportunity to rewrite the way it turns out.  Not the whole book, the entire story, all the verses of the song.  But a chance to grab a fresh sheet of paper and go in the direction of our choosing.  To pick up where we left off and plot a new adventure.

Amazing, no?  And here's the real kicker, we have that opportunity every single day...to re-route our own history.  To redirect our own future.  I just happen to think that on the most unique day of the calendar, the one that begins as one year and morphs into another, there is extra impetus to do so.

Forget the resolutions.  When did you ever stick to them anyway?  Just plan on getting up in the morning and walking out into the sunshine of the first day of 2017 and celebrating another anniversary.  And that shadow you see?  Well, I think Mr. Steven Digman would say that it's a reminder that the Lord is right there sticking with you.  As close and tight as He can get.  Even when you're wrong.

Happy New Year, folks.  And a very happy anniversary to you. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Merry Christmas, brother....




I sit in the den of our 200 year old farmhouse and look out the window, across the front porch, past the old well house, through the trees in the lot that once was an orchard, and I spy the cabin he built a dozen years ago.  Its red tin roof is bright and cheerful even in the grey overcast of a mid-December day.  There is no one home.  It was sold this past July to some folks from Nashville who use it and the surrounding riverfront acreage as a get-away.  I breathe in the silence, then hold my breath, seeing but not hearing the only movement in my line of vision, ice melting and running in drops off the eaves above the porch.   And, except for the plaintive cry of a stray calf, temporarily separated from its mother, the cold, wintry silence thaws the past and feeds my thoughts.

I like to believe that I am temporarily separated from my brother who once clomped  around the wide porch of that red-roofed cabin.  A man who was often larger than life and whose voice would carry over the several hundred yards between his place and ours.  And I miss that voice, sometimes in an excruciatingly acute fashion.  A similar timbre of voice was about the only thing we shared as adults, but he was my brother and I loved him every single day of his life.

I think of him at different times.  Though we seldom exchanged cards, I remember him on June 28, his birthday.  Whenever talk turns to fishing, I think about how his face would tighten into a smile and his eyes would dance at the thought of heading to the banks of the Elk River with a rod and reel and a can of night crawlers.  When my wife and I take one of our trips to the panhandle of Florida, I think of the times he and his wife loaded up their dogs and a couple of cats and headed to their place on St. George Island.  For weeks at a time.  He was most at home there, I believe.  Something about the rhythm of the ocean and blue skies and golden sun.  He took to all of that.  He grew bananas, of all things.

And, of course, Christmas.  Not recent Christmases but the Christmases of long ago when we were boys and he was truly my little brother.  When he would sit in his footed pajamas, mesmerized by the bubbling lights and shimmering tinsel on the Christmas tree.  How he would tiptoe around until he spied his name on a gift.  And, if no one was looking, he would lift it and shake it, taking a stab at what might be inside.  When I was ten and he was five, I intrigued him with stories of Santa Claus and how I was pretty sure that if we stayed up late enough on Christmas Eve, we would finally catch old Santa sneaking into our house with a bagful of presents.  I cautioned him to the risk, however, of getting caught.  We always shared a bedroom and it wasn't hard to convince him that any thud in the night were reindeer hooves on the roof. And how in the world could he say that he hadn't just heard what was most certainly sleigh bells.   I would tell him to close his eyes tight and pretend he was asleep so Santa would make sure to stop.  And I would close mine.

On Christmas morning, I couldn't remember who had fallen asleep first.  But we leaped from our beds at the same time and slipped quietly into the living room.  I recall in those times I received a great deal more joy watching him discover his Santa bounty than I did discovering my own.  My brother had a way of exhibiting delight that I just never got the hang of.  So, on those Christmases long ago, I claimed my delight through his.   I piggybacked on his joy.  And it grew my love for him.

This coming February he will have been gone two years.  There wasn't even time to say a really decent goodbye.  And though missing him hasn't eased up much, I take solace in what's available.  If you've never heard the the Sarah Darling song "Knowing What I Know About Heaven," I'd suggest you give it a listen.   So when my mind insists on trying to bring my brother back, when I want to reverse time and make things turn out differently, when I want to imagine that the cancer hadn't found its way to his body, or when I want to wish him back to the porch of his cabin or settled comfortably on the banks of the Elk with his voice harmonizing with the sounds of the flowing river,  I think about the lines of that song.

"Knowing what I know about heaven
Believing that you're all the way home
Knowing that you're somewhere better
Is all I need to let you go.
I could hope that I could pray you back
But why on earth would I do that
When you're somewhere life and love never ends
Knowing what I know about heaven."

Who knows?  Maybe there are Christmas trees in Heaven - I see no reason why there shouldn't be - and they are strung with miles and miles of brilliant bubble lights and glinting tinsel reflected in the faces and eyes and smiles of my brother and everyone else who has made that celestial journey.  I mean, what better place to celebrate Christmas than Heaven?  And, as much as I miss him, I wouldn't pray him back from that ultimate bounty of everlasting life and never-ending love.

But, you know what, doggone it, it sure would be nice to hear that sweet voice one more time.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The tree that almost wasn't



My favorite tree almost wasn't.  When a tornado ripped through the center of our farm in April, 2014, trees were the favorite targets.  Countless numbers were ripped from the earth, twisted at their roots like corkscrews, or broken in half by the F4 winds.  Hundreds of them, having thrived more than a century on this earth, were destroyed as easily as you would snap a toothpick in half.

One small tree at the edge of the yard was cracked in half by the winds, splintered a few feet from its base, the upper part  nearly destroying a hundred year old shed.  A track hoe removed the large upper half from the shed and I added to my to-do list taking my chainsaw and putting the pitiful remains out of their misery.

Fortunately, my to-do list fell a few items short of done.  And at some point weeks later, all tornado clean up work stopped and everyone just rested for awhile.

Days became weeks and weeks became months and so on.  Before you could turn around a year had passed, it was spring again and guess what?  That little piece of tree, left for dead and sentenced to a burn pile, started sprouting new limbs.  And weeks later, the buds on those limbs became leaves.  And then more limbs and more leaves.  Impossible, I thought.  I mean, that tree was a goner.  A splinter.  A hopeless shadow of what once it had been.

Now, over two years later, it's much more to me than a tree.  It's a reminder that nothing is done until it's done.  And our minds simply don't have the power to determine that.  We are limited to seeing through a glass darkly during our time here on this tiny planet and we are reminded to "set (our) minds on things above, not on earthly things."

It's also a reminder not to give up.  To have hope and to have faith.  And when that hope and faith blossoms, new worlds open up.

And, finally, that little tree continuously reminds me that regeneration is always possible.  Rejuvenation.  Redemption.  Resurrection on all levels.  Even at our lowest times, when winds of fortune have turned ugly and rendered disaster, tragedy, or devastation, there is hope.  Or even when there's just a malevolent breeze that blows us about from time to time, knocking us down, pushing us off course, there is recovery.  There is reinstatement of our more vibrant, more confident former selves.  There are new seasons and new beginnings.

Next spring I'm looking for my favorite tree to be even taller and fuller and stronger.  Who knows?  It might even have a nest of birds.

I think I would feel like a grandfather.




Thursday, November 17, 2016

An open letter to Million Women's March on Washington




                                                           Getty Images Topical Press Agency


Dear Ladies of the March:

So...I'm hearing that January 21st is cooking up to be a big day, huh?  I guess no small number of you is going to journey to our nation's capital to protest.  Multiple issues, I hear.  Lots of problems.  Rampant disrespect.  I should tell you, though, that I'm a little suspicious it has more to do with who didn't win our latest presidential election than you might want to admit.  But that's neither here nor there and there's no need for us to get off on the wrong foot.  Today, it's called the "Women's March on Washington."  A few days ago it was "Million Women's March."  Stay tuned.  A lady definitely has the prerogative to change her mind.

Okay...I could be so tongue-in-cheek here that I would pierce through the inside of my mouth right through to my stubbled jaw.  I don't think that would get me anywhere, however, so I'm going to try to practice a little restraint.  But when I read that "the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us...", I'm thinking that the whole thing is getting off to a start that appears to lean heavily on hyperbole. Demonized?  Really??  Also, those for whom this gathering is in the name of are "women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA (when did we add those extra letters?), Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault."  Talk about inclusive!

Problem is:  who's not on this list?  I can certainly claim more than a passing interest in several of those categories.  So, why not just march for everyone who's afraid?  Everyone who has truly suffered injury and injustice.  Even everyone who has had their feelings hurt in their life because someone said something.  Everyone who has ever been boxed out of the mainstream for whatever reason at whatever time.  Hey.  It's everyone, folks.  Every blasted one of us.  At some point and time in our lives, to some extent, we all have been on the outside looking in.  It's called life.

You say you want to "send a bold message."

Well, guess what...

You will.

You will send a bold message to this nation and the rest of the world that this is the most divided this country has been since the Civil War.  You will send a message that says we are a frightened nation.  You will send a message that we don't respect, honor, or support our democratic process.  (Yes, you will!  I won't let you argue that!)  And that we are a nation that assumes our leadership is going to fail before that leadership has a chance to perform.

You will send a message that says we are weak.

Your message will be heard loud and clear and our allies will wonder what happened to the America that they aligned with and identified with for generations.  Through several wars.  In good and bad times.  That strong America who took on all the bullies and backed down for nothing or no one.

And your message will resound deafeningly to our enemies who never in a million years believed that the United States could become so fractured and so disorganized and discombobulated and so...so...ugly. 

And so very ripe for the picking.

And the media, folks, is already drooling rivers.  If you thought they liberally spun the election news, watch this.  They'll spin this march on Washington like Linda Blair's head in "The Exorcist."

So organize your gathering, your march, whatever you want to call it.  I know that it will draw folks from sea to shining sea.  From L.A. to Tampa.  From those tiny islands of blue counties that looked so pitifully awash in the sea of red on the election maps.  

I cannot fathom the millions and millions of dollars that will be spent and the millions of hours that will go into the planning and organizing and executing.  Individually and institutionally.

Listen.  Just a little advice.  Consider it a travelogue of sorts.

While you're in Washington, drop by 700 Pennsylvania Avenue.  That's the National Archives and it houses our Constitution including the First Amendment upon which you will be operating while you're in D.C.  Then you might cruise by the Capitol and call on your representative to Congress. That's the person who best can help you get this all done.  And save you any future trips and expenses in trying to move our government in a direction you find more personally appealing.  And less injurious.  Because you can march till you drop but if your Congressional representative isn't tuned in, it's all for show.  (And I'm sure you're not doing it for show.)

While you're at it, take a peak at the Lincoln Memorial.  Look closely at Mr. Lincoln's face and you might just see a tear on his cheek (some folks think it's a mole) not for what this country has become, but for what you want to make people believe this country has become.  And President Lincoln had a phrase for what you are promulgating:  "A house divided against itself cannot stand."   And whether you support Mr. Lincoln's ideology or not, he certainly knew about divided houses.

And, finally, before you car, bus, train, or fly your way home, take a short ride to Arlington Cemetery and have them put you out at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  That brave, anonymous soul who eternally represents everyone in the military who has ever died for the United States of America.   Then, in the breathtaking silence, gaze over the acres of tombstones that grace in perfect symmetry that hallowed ground .  Those people fought some pretty nasty enemies, many of the same ones who are going to be glued to their televisions watching you on your day, January 21, 2017.  And those enemies are going to nod and smile and hope for the continuing unravelling of the fabric of this great nation. Whether there are a million or two million or more of you, they will cheer you on like you are marching in the Olympics.

So look at it this way, you've already got billions of supporters and you haven't even bought your comfy walking shoes yet.

And you know what?  I highly doubt that a single soldier lying beneath that Arlington soil suited up and shipped off to fight for a certain skin color, a particular sexual orientation, a specific religion, or any special class of human beings.  I'm pretty sure that when they took their bullet, they took it for the United States of America and the great and diverse population within its borders.  They took it for you.

Sorry to be blunt but you're already hurt and scared of just about everything, so I don't think I've caused any additional harm.  And since you're going to be in Washington anyway....

One last thing:  if you decide to stay home that day, you might consider erecting an American flag in your yard.  You might take the money you are going to spend on your Washington trip and donate it to a homeless shelter or a Veterans organization.  Or any local charity, for that matter.  You might invest all that planning and organizing time into going to a VA Hospital or a battered women's shelter, or an elementary school short on funds and giving them your time and energy.  You might attend some diversity and inclusion meetings and add your level of expertise to the group.  You might write a check to the Red Cross to help those thousands of women and children devastated by war, natural disaster, and genocide.  Those who have truly been, to use your word, demonized.

Yep.  You could do any of those things.  Or you might just go ahead and have your march.  

Whichever, God bless you and keep you safe.  We may disagree but we are all Americans.  I love my country and I love you and look forward to the day we are all in the same house.

Now get out there and get those comfy marching sneakers.



Friday, November 11, 2016

On this Veterans Day


"These GIs could not be let down. This was neither the time nor the chance for tactical fencing. The "Lost Battalion" had to be rescued, the German threat to the Yank breakthrough smashed, at any cost.

Thus, on the bright, hot afternoon of August 10, 1944, with magnificent daring, doughboy-laden tanks spearheading the 320th Regiment's attack barreled up the road directly into the powerful positions of the Wehrmacht's elite.

Out of 55 tanks 31 were knocked out in a few hours of furious fighting.

But the Nazi grip on the Mortain redoubt was cracked.

In the bloody and confused struggle which continued on throughout the night and next day many units of the regiment themselves became lost or surrounded, the attack disorganized.

During the following night, under the flares of the Luftwaffe, the remaining men of the 1st and 3rd Battalions were reorganized, combined. At dawn the infantrymen, without the aid of armor, stormed Mortain and the crest of the ridge, seizing both. The Lost Battalion was rescued, its wounded cared for by all the medical resources of the regiment.

The Battle of Mortain, the most dramatic in the 320th's combat record, exemplifies the regiment's relentless style of fighting, the driving power that has been used with four armies in five countries and has been called upon continuously from Normandy through Bastogne to the east bank of the Elbe. The 320th and her superb comrade regiments, the 134th and 137th, form a division - the 35th (Santa Fe) Division - whose record of achievement in the European campaigns ranks with the best."

This is an excerpt from The History of the 320th Infantry Regiment, outlining a battle during WWII as US troops attempted to wrestle France out of the hands of the Germans.  My father, John Loyd Gray, was wounded and taken prisoner of war on August 11, 1944.  I always wondered what he was going through that day because he spoke so sparingly of it.  Except to say that the Germans intervened by taking his bleeding and broken body to a hospital in Paris where German doctors labored to save his limbs and his life.  

Irony at its best.

He was one of those doughboys on foot inches from the tracks of those huge, clamoring tanks, plodding  courageously forward, one foot in front of the other.  A small piece of ground at a time.  From one hedgerow to the next.  

Until a machine gun ripped his legs out from under him and he fell wounded into the mud and blood- thousands of miles from home.

Veterans Day couldn't have come at a better time.  While Americans are marching in the streets protesting the election process that defines our republic, while people are kneeling or sitting through our national anthem, while our country quivers and quakes in the throes of an enormous divide, Veterans Day provides a reminder of what it took to get here in the first place.

My father was a 19 year old rural American (we've heard about those rural Americans these last few days) when he volunteered to fight for his country.  By the time he was 21 he had two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, and battle scars.  About the age of so many of the youngsters marching in the streets of cities, towns, and on the campuses of universities around this country.  They can thank him and every other combat soldier, men and women, for giving them that right to march.  They can thank him and all soldiers of the past for sacrificing part, or in some cases all, of their lives for the right to protest the very thing that defines us as a free nation.  They can thank everyone who has spent their time or their blood in our military securing the greatness of this nation we call the United States.

I don't have any astute prose to offer here.  Just facts.  Just a piece of history.  And an undying sense of pride for one man in particular, my father, for having the courage to defend all that we hold sacred.

And I can't help but feel a little disgusted at those who disrespect those sacred things.  But my father would forgive you and my Father forgives you, so I guess that it will just have to be alright for me.


Thank you, Dad.  And believe me, I'm trying to do right by you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Horizons

Horizons





I look out this morning to find a horizon drawn by God's straight-edge.  Put a level on it and the bubble would be right square in the middle...I'd bet on it.  Ocean horizons are defined and dependable.  They are predictable.  They are set and unchangeable.

No they're not.

It's estimated that a six foot tall person with his feet firmly planted in the sand will be able to see out to sea for three miles, and then the earth will rudely curve itself out of the picture.  Should he climb the lifeguard tower, the horizon moves out to around five miles.  From the patio of a Gulf front condo-say on the 10th floor-the ocean's horizon gets really gnarly, somewhere close to twelve miles out.

Where, pray tell, is this all going?  Well, we'll just keep poking at it and see what pops out.

Let's start with Robert Browning, a 19th century English poet, married to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a bit of a fox if I may say so.  And it was from inspiration of that foxy lady, I suppose, that spawned the lines:  "Grow old along with me!  The best is yet to be."  From another work, he gives us: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"

As I sit here immersed in the white noise of the waves, fifty yards from the slow boil of the tide in the Gulf of Mexico, perched some forty feet above the beach, my horizon teases me from a distance of eight miles.  When, last evening, I stood at ocean's edge, I was limited to a panorama of three miles.  (And, by the way, if you wondered why you had to suffer through the scribblings of Pythagoras in high school geometry, you can't get to these numbers without his theorem.)

But let's keep going.  In order to gain that extra five miles to the brink of the horizon, I had to do work.  I had to experience some level of accomplishment.  And that accomplishment came at some sacrifice.  In the most basic sense, I had to drag luggage and food and every Apple device ever created up a couple of flights of stairs and stow all of it in the condo.  I distinctly remember sweating.  Profusely.  Shouldn't be a big deal but when Bobby Browning invited us to grow old with him, I'm not sure that he was doing a ton of step climbing.  At a secondary level, I had to work for many years and do the correct things around planning for the future so that one day I would be able to meet the financial obligations of a week on the Gulf coast.  Not exactly up to the standard of challenges faced by Warren Buffet, but something beyond a Christmas savings account at the local bank.  Regardless, let's be honest...we're still at the most basic level of meeting obligations and being even remotely diligent.

I could stair-step us right along at this point, but I think I'll just get to it.  Our horizon is nothing more than our reach.  And no matter who we are, we do have the ability to reach as far as we possibly can.  Sometimes we choose to reach...I mean really stretch it out there...and sometimes we simply decide to go for only that which is within arm's length.  It's our choice.  That simple.

So the question is:  is there really a discernible difference between seeing three miles of emerald green and agate blue versus eight miles?  I mean, the sea is the sea, isn't it?

Well, my answer is yes.  The sea is the sea.  And, yes.  There is a difference.  You can continue to climb after your legs buckle, you can choose to reach higher and longer, you can fight harder, and you can maintain a death grip on every foot...every inch...that you attain.  Because that extended horizon means a few more precious seconds of that delicious sunset - that melting ice cream sundae overflowing with cherry and strawberry sky and whipped cream clouds.  It's being able to see that magnificent ship steaming eastwardly six miles from shore, the ship that's not even a figment of your imagination when you limit yourself to three miles of horizon.  You have another zillion gallons of emerald sea for your eyes to relish before it meets that bank of clouds along God's razor-fine straight-edge.  It's the opportunity for another drop of satisfaction, another small bite of life...one more verse of your favorite song.

In the end, when you find yourself blessed to have lived a life that has recognized the value of conscious, dedicated effort, that is a gift in itself.  The bonus is that prolonged reach being rewarded by an extraordinary grasp that we pray we will find a way to be worthy of.

I watch two seagulls breakfasting in the foam of the ebbing tide.  The breeze has picked up, ruffling the feathers of a persnickety blue heron.  The casual dining partners skitter back and forth devouring random treats.   Their horizon, according to Pythagoras, is less than a mile.  Poor birds.  Much less then a mile.  But, after a while, when they take wing with full stomachs and wet, sticky feet, they climb the currents of the sea breeze with amazing ease.  Higher and higher they go, until they are two indistinct dots against the blazing blue sky.  And I think, my God...they have the power to create an endless horizon - no limits, no ending!  And I believe it is just that, my friends, that Robert Browning was referring to when he said that the best is yet to be.  And, yes, yes, yes.  That is what a heaven's for.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Word of the Day




                                                          Photo from Audubon.com


This morning,  the Word of the Day on my Dictionary.com app buzzed its way into my life.  Just a tiny vibration and an almost inaudible purr.  But a word that sent my muse scurrying in demanding that I compose a few words.

My, but this word is unforgivably coincidental, if I believed in coincidences,  seeing that I'm sitting on a screened porch, listening to small waves breaking, breathing salty air, and watching seagulls line up for seafood brunch on the unapologetic white sands of the Gulf of Mexico.

The word?  Albatross.  Al-ba-tross.  And though I'm not sure of the shared DNA between said albatrosses and said gulls, they look pretty similar to a landlocked bloke such as I.

But as you know, we don't really conjure up the bird when we think of albatross.  Unless we picture it hanging around our  straining necks.

Dictionary.com tells us that an albatross is a noun that is "a seemingly inescapable moral or emotional burden, as of guilt or responsibility" or "something burdensome that impedes action or progress."

You know, we're in a day where "no news is good news" rings pretty darn true.  We have seemingly unbridled global terrorism.  We have civilians shooting civilians, police shooting civilians, and civilians shooting police.  We have a partisan divide unequalled in my memory and this partisan divide appears to be driven by mutual disgust and distaste for the "other party" candidate.  We are divided on so many fronts that we're going to have to invent new fronts upon which to be divided.  We have what is, in my opinion, a rip in our societal seam that threatens the entire garment of the republic.  We have hate, fear, and anger wrapped in one great big ball.

We have, folks, around our collective necks, an albatross of pterodactyl proportions.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes in "The Ancient Mariner:"

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.


"Instead of the cross...".  Things that make you go, "Hmmmm."


I'm not ashamed of my fellow Americans.  That would be prideful.  It's the whole "he who is without sin" thing.  If I am ashamed of my fellow Americans, that would mean that I stand in judgment of them.  And God help us if someone of my ilk were to stand in judgement of anyone or anything.  I have no business even picking up a stone, much less casting it.

What am I?   What are my feelings?  What are my emotions?

Well, I suppose that there is an exact word I could use, but I'm not sure that I can find exactness here.  I'm alarmed.  I'm disappointed.  I'm concerned.  And I'm a little scared.  Wait, strike that.  I'm too old to be scared.  I think a better word might be "anxious."

I don't like posing issues and concerns without remedies.  But I have none.  In today's familiar parlance, that's above my pay grade.  In fact, I have to question whether there is a solution.  I suppose that all problems, simply by being problems, have solutions, so my hope is that there is a person or people out there who can put us right again.  I'm thinking that whatever the solution is, it's going to take time.  Lots of time.  A couple of generations maybe.

I think of the seemingly endless plight of the Israelites.  About as soon as they had things figured out and found their way back to God, something was already percolating to shove them back into the same predicament they had just gotten out of.  Such a cyclical thing.  And, who knows?  Maybe our current societal ills have occurred before - perhaps many times before - and I'm just not a studious enough historian to know that.

What I do know is that I will pray everyday for America.  I will pray that we will mend our rips, sew up old wounds, stabilize the foundation this country was built on, dispel negative rhetoric and angry words, and find a way to symbolically join hands in the spirit of unity.

I will pray that we will find a way to remove that gargantuan albatross necklace from our stiff necks and walk unimpeded, unprejudiced, and with pride.

In another coincidental non-coincident, yesterday's Word of the Day was cackleberry.  Not nearly as compelling and thought-provoking as albatross, but certainly an honored member of our lexicon.  And it begs the question:  what came first, the albatross or the cackleberry.

Come on.  Look it up if you need to.  I did.  And, you know,  just maybe you'll have something to smile about today.  And that, just maybe, might be the start of something good.  Something really good.