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Thursday, June 19, 2014


To me, one of the prettiest and most peaceful places in the world is
dusk at the Sailfish Marina on Singer Island, Florida.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


If you've read Barbara Kingsolver's novels, you must be a fan.  I've no doubt about that.  She places her characters in unusual situations highlighting the diversity of people and their problems and often their relationships with the natural world.   Kingsolver also shows that despite humanity's diversity there exists a binding similarity.  Interesting.  This sounds stilted, but it is the uniqueness of Kingsolver's approach that brings me back time and again and makes me relate to situations that are far afield from anything I have ever or will experience. 

My last Kingsolver read was the totally enthralling The Lacuna, and this time I share Flight Behavior with you. 

The definition of “flight” offers myriad possibilities.  Are we going to read about the natural world as in birds or are we talking about people or machines?  What members of the natural world?  What kind of people?  What kind of machines?

In Flight Behavior we read about different kinds of flight.  We read about intentional flight, behavioral flight, and potential flight.  We read about the intended and unintended consequences as well as the personal costs one might pay.  The masterful manner in which Kingsolver weaves all this into a compellingly interesting tapestry lures and captures the reader's interest. 

Take a poor rural teenage girl with a desire to escape and attend college who finds herself pregnant by a young man who decides on the honorable route and marries her.  His family supplies a house for them and a job for him on their sheep farm—a barely subsistence living.  Two children later, her life is unbearable stifling.  She is attracted to other men although she never cheats on her husband.  But she intends to,  and she climbs the mountain behind her house to meet the latest object of her desires while mulling over the claustrophobic perimeters of her life and wondering whether this act will cause catastrophic self-destructive consequences. She doesn't care.  

As she approaches the point of rendezvous, she  beholds a magical and frighteningly exquisite sight.  Looking into the tree-filled valley, she is stunned by the way it sparkles and flares up as if on fire.  Light fills every bit of airspace and clings to the trees.  It takes her a few eerie minutes to realize that this is not fire but a valley of mystical light. At the moment she interprets the vision as a miracle and a sign.  The spectacle has meaning she cannot  define, but her mind whirls as she turns around and hurries home, her rendezvous instantaneously cancelled.  The valley of light stops her from throwing away her life.  

Dellarobia keeps her discovery to herself until she learns that her father-in-law, Bear, intends to allow a company to clear-cut log the mountain.  She knows she cannot allow the destruction of the trees but cannot explain the trees aflame in the light up there.  She has no words to describe and share what she witnessed.  Somehow she convinces her husband, Cub, to take men to look at the mountain and the forest.  In less than an hour the men are back to collect their wives to show them the sight that dazzled them as it dazzled Dellarobia.

This time Dellarobia is able to identify the flashing lights.  They are butterflies, dense and thick.  They fill the sky and make the light glow golden.  They cling to the trees.  The fire she had seen was the flashing sunlight on the wings of butterflies.  The fire is alive.  The butterflies are creatures in flight sparkling in their journey.

Cub is the first to pounce on the butterflies as religious signs.  “Mother, Dad, listen here.  This is a miracle.  She had a vision of this...She foretold of it.  After the shearing we were up talking in the barn, and she vowed and declared we had to come up here...She said there was something big up here in our own back yard.”

The results of sharing her discovery with others poke holes in the walls confining Dellarobia and her children.  Sharing does more than poke; it takes a sledgehammer to those walls and opens up her small, insulated world to outsiders from across continents—all with interpretations of the butterflies' meaning.

You might imagine some of those interpretations, but I guarantee you will be nodding or clicking your tongue as you see the ramifications of Dellarobia's discovery.   

Perhaps I would have been happier had Barbara Kingsolver been less political in her approach, but I never reached a point where I wanted to put this book down.  When Kingsolver mixes people of different backgrounds in one situation, she is at her best, and the results entirely ring true.  A intrusive outsider handing out pledge-to-save-the-earth leaflets at the top of her mountain, once calls Dellarobia “you people.”  The outsider knows best—he thinks.  Nuff said 

Take one very fed up woman from a rural southern Appalachia hamlet, throw in some unusual weather and a life-changing experience.  Couple that with Kingsolver's magnificent control of the English language and elevated descriptions, and you will surely come away with a little deeper understanding of the forces that impact our lives for better or for worse.

Read Flight Behavior if you are a Barbara Kingsolver fan.  It you haven't experienced flying on the wings of her outstanding prose, take a flyer on Flight Behavior.

Friday, June 13, 2014


This simple statement says so much.
In so many of the cities we visit, bicycles are a popular mode of transportation.
This bike is in Victoria, British Columbia where bikes and bike racks abound.
Come visit New York City, and you will see the transformation has occurred there too.

Monday, June 02, 2014


Memorial Day 2014
Warwick High School student play Taps at the conclusion 
of the Memorial Day ceremony in the Warwick Cemetery
Sometimes the most wonderful place to be is in your own home town.  That’s the way I feel about Warwick.  I never drive up side streets to avoid Main Street.  I like to drive right up the Main Street.
I enjoy looking at the buildings, shops, and people of my town.  Warwick is charming.  It is small town as in “small town America out of the movies.”  It is the way people dream a small town should be.

Never is that warm community feeling more obvious than on Memorial Day.  The parade through town  warms the heart.  The sidewalks are lined deep with residents of every age enthusiastically waving American flags as the veterans go past.  Some watchers call out “Thank you.”  Some veterans respond by smiling or saluting. They are the stars of this parade. 

Memorial Day 2014
Families gather early to get the best seats
Memorial Day 2014
The young people place flags wherever they can
We’ve been in Warwick for more than thirty years.  I remember when all the veterans walked the parade.  Lately many of the elderly ones are driven in cars or on wagons pulled by trucks or tractors.  Most recently their numbers have sadly dwindled as those from World War II and Korea leave us.  It’s disconcerting to see how few were there this year. 

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts march in the parade with homemade banners.

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day 2014
A marcher in training
The Ambulance Corps shows off its ambulances.  The fire trucks ride up Oakland Avenue, old and new, all gleaming and polished until the sun’s rays hitting their surfaces reflect off in a glare.

Memorial Day 2014

What we learn is that those who served our country in the military are more likely than not to come home and serve our community.  A great number of our volunteer firemen march together as former members of the military. 

Memorial Day 2014
Numerous veterans volunteer for our Fire Department.
I'm sure you'll find the same exists on the Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Always in our parade are members of the Stewart family—generations of men who have gone off in service to our country. 

Memorial Day 2014
Members of the Stewart family usually serve as honor guard
and lead the parade
As the parade ends, we gather in the Warwick Cemetery for a ceremony involving the VFW, the American Legion, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and local politicians.

Memorial Day 2014
This Boy Scout reads The Gettysburg Address
Memorial Day 2014
This Girl Scout tells us the story of "Taps"
We used to honor at our services a Gold Star Mother, Caroline Lesando, whose son, Nicholas, was killed in Vietnam.  The American Legion Nicholas P. Lesando Jr. Post #214 is named after him.  His mother participated each year but she has aged and has moved to be closer to her daughter.

There was a new American Legion Chaplain too as the prior one passed away some weeks ago.  His wife, part of the Ladies’ Auxiliary, was there, however.  This is what they did together, and she will carry on alone.  When the Commander of the American Legion spoke, he reminded us that fast approaching is the 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 4th.  There were people at the ceremony who participated in that moment in history.

This is a town where the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars play important roles.  For the last few years they’ve enlisted the aid of Boy Scouts who help place an American flag on the grave of every veteran in the Warwick Cemetery.  As the veteran ranks decline, the remaining ones are teaching young men the importance of remembering and honoring.  That is still a great service.

Memorial Day 2014
This is the Memorial.
The wreaths were placed by the different Veteran organizations
and the Women's Auxiliary.
I wonder what is going through these young boys' heads.
When the names of the fallen are read aloud—including our recent losses in Iraq and Afghanistan—one also hears the old familiar names of families who have farmed this area for generations. 

Enjoy the photos.  I believe with all my heart that the men and women we honor on Memorial Day fought to keep this vision of America alive and intact.